A Summary of the 2021 Past Presidents’ Student Reception on Careers in Federal, State, and Local Agencies Society for Historical Archaeology 2021 Virtual Conference
By Duane Quates, Mandy Ranslow, and Will Reed
The Past Presidents’ Student Reception session on careers in Federal, State, and Local Agencies took place on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm CST. During this hour-long session, students were given the opportunity to engage, question, and discuss employment opportunities and career strategies with three SHA leaders that work in the federal, state, and local government career path.
The following is a summary of the discussions from the session. The panelists for this session were Duane Quates, Mandy Ranslow, and Will Reed:
- Duane Quates earned his B.A. from the University of West Florida and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He began his government career as an archaeological student assistant with the Michigan Department of Transportation. Afterwards, he worked for the U.S. Department of the Army as a Federal Archaeologist at Fort Drum, New York, for almost seven years. In 2016, he transferred over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), where he currently serves as the State Cultural Resource Specialist and Archaeologist in Michigan.
- Mandy Ranslow earned her undergraduate degree from Boston University and a master’s degree from University of Connecticut. Afterwards she was employed doing contract archaeology for eight years. She later gained employment as a Transportation Planner /Archaeologist with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT). After six years of transportation experience at Connecticut DOT, she became the Federal Highway Liaison at the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), where she currently works.
- Will Reed earned his B.A. from Fort Lewis College and an M.A. from Idaho State University. He began working with the U.S. Forest Service in 1976. He then went on to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and then moved into contract work. He later returned to the U.S. Forest Service in 1987 and has been there ever since. He currently serves as Regional Heritage Program Leader and Passport in Time Program Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service Southwest Region.
In early December 2020, SHA sent students who registered for the 2021 Virtual Conference, a survey with a list of questions about careers in historical archaeology. In this survey, students were asked to select the career type or types of their choice, and then select the top three questions they would like the session panelists to address in terms of these career paths. Students were also asked to add their own questions for the session panelists. During the first half of the session on careers in Federal, State, and Local Agencies, the session panelists responded to the top three survey questions:
QUESTION: What types of work experience and/or non-academic training do I need?
The short answer is internships and experience on archaeological projects. Students should make sure that they meet the Secretary of the Interior’s (SOI) Professional Qualifications Standards for archaeology before applying for government positions. The best way to do that is to gain work experience in archaeology. The panelists recommended taking on internships, even if unpaid, or take on summer work on archaeological projects. Education is only one-third of the SOI Professional Qualification Standards. Applicants will need to be able to show that they have the minimum 2½ years of experience and the related products and activities to demonstrate their proficiency in archaeology.
QUESTION: How should I structure my resume or CV to pursue this type of career?
The applicant should think of their CV or resume as the primary means through which they can convey to the employer that they are SOI qualified. It should be structured to include the three criteria of the S standards: education, work experience, and product and activities that demonstrate proficiency. Students often have a hard time communicating their work experience and the products and activities. The panelists advised that students should break down the work they have done toward earning a graduate degree into tasks and products. Include internships and volunteer work in your work experience. For example, volunteering for 2 years at an archaeological lab for 10 hours per week is 6 months of full-time work experience. As for products and activities, these can include such things as conference papers, presentations at historical or archaeological societies, participation in public outreach events, contributions to archaeological reports, book chapters, journal articles, and so on. All of these should be documented on the CV.
Duane Quates pointed out that when applying for federal jobs, you should tailor your CV or resume to the specific position that you are applying for. Using the USAJOBS.com resume builder you can create multiple resumes. When applying for a particular position use the key words in the position announcement to describe your education, experience, and activities and products. If the position asks for 2 years of “Section 106 review experience” do not use the phrase “cultural resource review experience.” The reason for this is that, as a first step, automated agency employment systems scan for these key words and rejects those that do not seem to match. Make it easier for the automated system to choose your application by using the exact wording in the position announcement. Mandy Ranslow noted that during her employment career, she used a similar strategy where she has a master CV that she would never submit for an application but cherry picks from the master what she thinks is the relevant experience to match the position announcement.
Will Reed pointed out that demonstrating proficiency in communication is very important. Do not be verbose. The aim is to communicate efficiently and concisely. Do not submit a 127-page application, as one unfortunate applicant did for a position with the Forest Service.
QUESTION: What type of courses do I need to take?
The panelists agreed that most academic courses within a M.A. or Ph.D. program are sufficient but that no academic program will give you all the skills necessary for your career. However, taking courses on cultural resource and heritage law could prove to be beneficial to a student. Will Reed advised that students may wish to take courses that will provide them with GIS, technical, computer literacy, accounting, or administrative skills, as these are becoming more and more valuable in the current job market. Duane Quates pointed out that academic programs will never adequately prepare the student for a career outside of academia. There are many skills that are emphasized in academic courses that the student may never be asked to perform in their career and vice versa. For example, he said that he recently had an intern asked him on advice on how to write a National Register nomination for a class assignment. Duane had to admit that the only time he had ever done one was in a similar course in 1999 but had never been asked to write, or even review one, in his 15-year government career. The takeaway message here is that the student should be prepared that their academic program may leave them lacking in certain types of skills needed for a career outside academia or may provide proficiencies in skills that may not be pertinent to their desired career path. In either case, they should expect to have to learn on the job.
The panelists then addressed the following additional questions that were posed by students responding to the December 2020 survey:
QUESTION: What is the best way to look for federal, state, and local agency jobs?
For federal jobs use USAJOBS.com to search for positions. For state and local governments, you will need to search through their posted job listings or through other forums like Shovelbums.org. Mandy Ranslow added that you should keep in mind that some positions do not have archaeologist in the title so you may have to do a keyword search for archaeology. For example, she was a Transportation Planner for the Connecticut DOT and is currently the Federal Highway Administration’s Liaison with the ACHP. Neither position had archaeology in the title, but both were positions requiring someone with qualifications in archaeology (or architectural history).
QUESTION: Is the market run exclusively through networking or can an applicant without a connection apply for a job and be successful?
On the surface, government hiring may seem like a blind search and that only qualifications are considered. However, the hiring process has multiple stages of evaluation. The interview is the only stage where a specialist in the field enters the hiring process. They do not do the hiring; they only make recommendations and rank the candidates on the list they are provided. So, applicants appear to have an equal chance, depending on qualifications and how well their applications are written, to get to the interview process. However, once in the interview with the specialist, networking may come in handy. All three panelists admitted that their networks helped them in getting government positions. Mandy Ranslow was asked to apply for the Transportation Planner position with the Connecticut DOT. Duane said that when he interviewed for his first federal job, although he did not know the people that interviewed him, they did know at least one of his references and spoke to them prior to the interview. Will confessed that when he applied for his current position, he wrote the shortest application of his career. He stated, “…if you spend enough time in government service you compile enough work that others know who you are, and your work speaks for itself.” The takeaway message here is to develop your networks while in graduate school.
During the second half of the session, attendees were asked to post their own questions in the Chat Box, and the panelists responded to each question in turn.
QUESTION: Is the only route into these jobs through field work or do lab geeks have a chance as well?
Mandy noted that the session discussions had been a little fieldwork heavy as all the panelists were, at least formerly, field archaeologists. However, there are certain laboratory and curatorial jobs in government, so individuals with these skills should look for these types of positions. Duane pointed out that when considering the SOI qualifications, the work experience requirements does not distinguish between field and lab, so he felt that applicants with more laboratory and curatorial experience had an equal chance as those with field experience of obtaining most archaeologist positions in government.
QUESTION: Can those that do not have U.S. citizenship acquire a federal, state, or local government job or contract?
Federal positions require U.S. citizenship, but state and local government positions do not necessarily require U.S. citizenship. These, of course, vary from organization to organization.
QUESTION: How important are independent research presentations or presentations based on job-related findings for career advancement within agencies? How does this factor into professional development or obtaining jobs with greater responsibility?
Presenting findings to the public is one responsibility of most government archaeologists. Whether it is through public forums, conference presentations, or some type of publication, government archaeologists have a federal mandate to provide their findings to the public. This is one of the many skills that is sought during the hiring process and such endeavors, coupled with others, could lead to advancement within the federal government.
QUESTION: How can students prepare themselves to understand Native American consultation and working with tribes.
Tribal consultation is one of the most important aspects of an archaeologist’s responsibilities in government. Those students looking to go into government archaeology would find that this is an advantageous skill to develop. Students can do this by volunteering with tribal projects and working directly for Tribes in your area. Many Tribes have archaeologists and cultural centers that may benefit from volunteer help or may be hiring on a fulltime, part-time, or seasonal basis. Additionally, if you have an internship with a government agency, inform your supervisor that this is a skill that you would like to develop and ask to be involved with tribal consultation.
The panelists would like to thank the Society for Historical Archaeology for holding this forum, and specifically, Mr. Terry Klein and Dr. Teresita Majewski (session organizers) for inviting us to participate in this way and for all the hard work they did in putting this together.
A Closing Note from Terry Klein and Terry Majewski:
We were very pleased about the results of this and the other career sessions. Exchanges between the panelists and attendees were lively and very informative, and several attendees acknowledged their thanks at the end of each session. We are looking forward to the next Past Presidents’ Student Receptions in Philadelphia! It will be great to finally see everyone in person! If you have any questions about this and the other career sessions, or future Past Presidents’ Student Receptions, please contact Mr. Terry Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Teresita Majewski (email@example.com).
“But underwater archaeology is already underwater…”
Considering Climate Change Impacts on Underwater Archaeological Heritage
By: Nicole Grinnan, M.A., RPA, Florida Public Archaeology Network
Very frequently, I talk to public audiences around the state of Florida about underwater archaeology. Topics range from how underwater archaeologists do their jobs to what kinds of sites are considered underwater archaeological heritage to whether or not underwater archaeologists regularly fend off sharks. Conversations often turn to the future of my discipline and, in discussing the kinds of difficulties that underwater archaeologists face as we work our way through the 21st century, I bring up climate change as one of the major hurdles with which all archaeologists will have to contend in one way or another. In Florida, climate change has been an important issue for decades. Impacts like sea level rise and erosion are often made visible on the landscape during high tides or after major hurricanes. Most public audiences are thus familiar with sea level rise and, inevitably, someone asks the question: “But underwater archaeology is already underwater…why do you need to worry about climate change?”
While I can keep the mood light in responding that sea level rise is certainly good job security for me as an underwater archaeologist, the fact is that many people aren’t aware of the different facets of climate change as they regard the planet’s oceans, rivers, and lakes. Underwater archaeology is thus also affected in a variety of different ways, not just by sea level rise. While the tendency is to think of archaeological resources as dusty (or muddy) remnants of the human past distinct from the natural world around them, they are both created and buried within a biological environment. The latter is especially true for underwater archaeological sites: because marine life is often attracted to relief on the floor of oceans, rivers, or lakes, these sites become important artificial reefs that serve as a home to diverse ecosystems. Impacts to those ecosystems result in impacts to underwater heritage and vice versa.
So what do we know about climate change as it relates to our oceans? Based on a 2014 International Panel on Climate Change study that looked at years of archived tidal gauge data, we know that global sea levels rose approximately 7.5 inches between 1901 and 2010. Studies by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO 2015) and the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA 2020) indicate a similar average increase in sea levels of 0.06 inches per year between 1880-2013. Global sea temperatures have also risen. NOAA estimates an average rise in temperature of 1.3°F between 1915-2015 based on historical data. This averages to an increase of about 0.13°F per decade (NOAA 2016). Yet another changing factor is the pH of the world’s oceans. The ocean is one of planet Earth’s greatest regulators of carbon dioxide. Not only does carbon dioxide dissolve in water, phytoplankton living in oceans take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis (much like forests do on land). With a planet that is roughly 71% covered in water, we rely on oceans to diminish carbon dioxide levels and provide oxygen. As carbon dioxide levels increase due to human activity, however, an imbalance has been created. Oceans now dissolve more carbon dioxide than previously, resulting in the increased production of carbon acid that then lowers the pH value of water. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (2014), the current pH of 8.2 in our oceans may continue to decrease by as much as 0.06-0.32 by 2100.
It is important here to recognize two things: 1) these effects are not uniform around the globe, and 2) there are fluctuations in tidal and temperature maximums from year to year. Long-term plotted data, however, does point to upward trends in both sea levels, surface temperatures, and acidity. Predictions about the future change, but there is general agreement that sea level rise will affect 95% of the world’s oceans, altered temperatures will be felt even at significant depths, and increased acidity creates immense problems for many marine species.
As it relates to underwater archaeological sites, I’ve separated out climate impacts into three categories: 1) sea level rise and shoreline dynamics, 2) rising temperatures, and 3) ocean acidification. I’ll briefly discuss what each means and then provide some examples of effects based on a broad range of research. These explanations and examples are certainly not meant to be comprehensive, but rather an introduction to the issues. Additionally, distinguishing among these three categories is useful for helping explain some of what has underwater archaeologists concerned, but it is less useful for understanding the physics and chemistry of climate change forces in action. In reality, all of these impacts are tied to and affect one another in the larger scheme of climate change.
When underwater archaeologists talk about shoreline dynamics, they are typically referring to the many ways that shorelines change over time through erosion and sedimentation. Sometimes that change happens very quickly, like when a storm passes through; other times, that change can happen very slowly over time. Underwater archaeological sites along coastlines, whether fully submerged or in the intertidal zone, are subject to frequent episodes of becoming covered and uncovered. Shoreline erosion and sedimentation are natural processes, but climate change impacts frequently interrupt or speed up these processes through increased wave action, higher high tides, and larger, more severe storms. In some cases, a site’s environment may permanently change. The net effects of erosion and sedimentation on submerged or intertidal archaeological sites can be positive (e.g., a previously exposed site is now buried and protected from further degradation) or negative (e.g., a once-buried site is now exposed). One notable example of this kind of change can be seen on the sandy spit of Dog Island off Carrabelle, Florida. While barrier islands are subject to natural “turnover” (i.e., they change and move over time as sand moves around), the increased frequency and severity of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico has ignited this process on Dog Island). In 2018, after Hurricane Michael, several late 19th-century shipwrecks were uncovered as the island’s sand was pushed north. This change can also be seen in the changing environment of the alleged Priscilla shipwreck on Dog Island. As Dog Island shifts north, the wreck has moved out of the intertidal zone and into a fully submerged environment.
Another consideration for shoreline dynamics are shallow water ecosystems. The environments, which include coral reefs, seagrass meadows, kelp beds, and intertidal pools, are rich in marine life and are some of the most affected by sea level and temperature rise. Importantly, these species-rich environments can be stabilizers for underwater archaeological sites. As I mentioned earlier, shipwrecks and other archaeological sites become a part of the underwater environment when they are submerged. Archaeological sites thus often reach a form of equilibrium with their surroundings, protected by the life that flourishes on them. One interesting example of this is the HMS Fowey shipwreck located within the boundaries of Biscayne National Park in southeast Florida. An 18th-century British Man-of-War, HMS Fowey wrecked in what would become Biscayne National Park when she ran aground during an attempt to save a fellow British brigantine in 1748. In part due to human activities (like anchor dragging and vandalism) and in part due to the effects of natural disasters like hurricanes, the HMS Fowey site has experienced significant seagrass erosion since its rediscovery in 1980 (Lowerre 2014). This erosion over time has led to increased exposure of the site, making it even more susceptible to continued human and natural damage. Cultural resource managers with the National Park Service have attempted to restabilize the site by reburying it and/or planting seagrass to fend off erosion. With major hurricanes afflicting the area, however, these efforts have largely been unsuccessful (Wright et al. 2015). If climate change-driven storms escalate in severity and frequency, then the potential for preserving a site like HMS Fowey increasingly becomes a challenge for resource managers.
In tandem with changes to shorelines, rising temperatures in the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes will likely also have impacts on the long-term preservation of underwater archaeological sites. Although the rate of temperature change in these bodies of water may seem relatively slow, underwater archaeological sites and their associated material culture have the potential to be significantly altered by changes in their environment. In an experimental study on the effects of temperature change on the presentation of various materials, North and Macleod (1987) indicated that the rate of corrosion of ferrous metals (e.g., iron and steel) nearly doubles for every 18°F change in temperature. While the rate of temperature rise is currently far less than that when we talk about climate change, this study indicates that ferrous materials may be subject to increased rates of degradation as a result of climate change. Similarly, as both sea and air temperatures rise, polar regions experience higher rates of ice melt and a subsequent decrease in what is called “winter hypoxia.” When temperatures are cold enough to produce or sustain winter ice, there can be a resulting lack of oxygen in surrounding waters. For archaeological sites around the poles, this lack of oxygen can lead to excellent site preservation. As winter hypoxia becomes rarer, however, sites in polar waters can deteriorate in ways to which they were not previously subject (Rahel and Olden 2008).
Apart from the direct effect of temperature rise on archaeological materials and their long-term preservation, it is also important to consider effects on marine life living on or around underwater sites. Increases in marine temperatures permanently alter existing ecosystems, encouraging species to either retreat to colder waters or spread into new, warmer environments. Researchers are seeing extended periods of reproduction in species like the wood-boring Teredo navalis and Lyrodus pedicellatus (commonly referred to as shipworms) as temperatures rise (Appelqvist and Havenhand 2016). These species can be detrimental to the ongoing preservation of wooden shipwrecks and other submerged wooden archaeological materials. There is also some evidence from Bournemouth University that a rise in marine temperatures have led to the northward migration of L. pedicellatus along the English coast (Palma 2014). In the American Great Lakes, invasive species like quagga (Dreissena bugensis) and zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have wreaked havoc on the marine ecosystem and submerged archaeological sites. As sites are colonized by these mussels, the sheer weight of their numbers can result in significant damage and even breakage of archaeological remains. While the degree to which climate change might affect these mussel species is somewhat uncertain, research suggests that warmer waters may provide a means for their spread (Kennedy 2012).
The acidification of the world’s oceans is yet another climate change impact that has the potential to profoundly affect marine ecosystems. As we read earlier, oceans and the phytoplankton that dwell within them act as the largest filter for carbon dioxide on the planet. With carbon dioxide levels on the rise due to the continued use of fossil fuels, oceans are becoming oversaturated. What does that mean? The pH of ocean water is dropping, creating a more acidic environment.
As it relates to marine life, an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans means a subsequent decrease in carbonate ion concentration. Calcium carbonate forms the basis for life for a variety of marine species, including corals, plankton, echinoderms, mollusks, and crustaceans. Apart from the fact that seafood dinners might look very different for us as ocean acidification intensifies, these kinds of marine life are also often the first kinds of life to colonize submerged cultural resources. In the waters around Florida, for example, shipwreck sites are often covered with corals and other invertebrate organisms that essentially create a protective barrier between archaeological remains and the open water. Without colonization by this kind of marine life, sites are subject to exposure and subsequent degradation (Oxley 1998). Interestingly, shipworms are also among the species that produce calcium carbonate. While we’ve noted that increased numbers and the spread of shipworms due to rising temperatures is problematic for wooden archaeological materials, ocean acidification may actually be a detriment to their long-term survivability (something that may actually be of benefit to some archaeological sites) (Spalding 2011).
Like rising temperatures, increased acidification also has implications for rates of corrosion among certain kinds of archaeological materials. Cupreous metals like bronze and brass are highly sensitive to acids; these metals were frequently used in ship construction and fittings. Research also suggests that some ceramic glazes, particularly lead and tin glazes, will deteriorate more quickly in lower pH environments (Spalding 2011).
While it is sometimes difficult to talk about the effects of climate change without sounding like a harbinger of doom, the impacts and scenarios discussed here do not have to be inevitabilities. Climate change has affected archaeological sites, yes, but it is well within our collective power to mitigate, slow down, or even stop these impacts completely. One of the ways to mitigate the effects of climate change on sites is through what has been termed “archaeological triage:” inventorying sites at risk, prioritizing research at sites that are most in peril of being lost, and monitoring sites in the long term to better frame and contextualize the effects of climate change. In addition to considering a triage approach, underwater archaeologists can also mitigate impacts by continuing to pursue interdisciplinary work that might include climate-focused data analysis, site degradation studies, potentials for site stabilization, identifying the relationships between natural resources and maritime communities in lieu of change, and the development of climate change citizen science initiatives. Slowing down or stopping the impacts of climate change is commitment that humanity at large must make. It is up to each and every one of us (archaeologist or not) to draw attention to the issues, engage in continuing education, and vote in ways that reflect our concerns. Not only can we ensure the protection and preservation of archaeological resources in this way, we can also help safeguard the health of our planetary home.
 While this change seems relatively small, I have found it useful to think about our oceans like we think about the human body. For example, I feel very differently with a normal temperature of 98.6F than I do with a borderline fever temperature of 99.6F.
 Like rising temperatures, this doesn’t seem like a big change; we must consider, however, that incremental changes in pH can have devasting effects. For example, think about the characteristics of lemon juice (pH of 2) versus those of battery acid (pH of 1). While there is a difference of just one pH between them, our bodies can much more readily digest the former over the latter! The same is true for the world’s oceans.
Appelqvist, Christin and Jonathan N Havenhand.
2016 A phenological shift in the time of recruitment of the shipworm, Teredo navalis L., mirrors marine climate change. Ecology and evolution 6(12):3862-3870.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
2015 Update to data originally published in Church, J.A. and N.J. White. 2011. Sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Surveys in Geophysics 32:585-602.
Shipwrecks on Dog Island in 1899 unearthed by Hurricane Michael. Tallahassee Democrat 20 October. Tallahassee, FL. <https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/10/20/ships-wreck-dog-island-1899-unearthed-hurricane-michael/1697720002/> Accessed September 2020.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2014 Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Pachauri, RK and LA Meyer, editors. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. IPCC, Geneva.
Fending Off Invaders in a Warmer Climate. Climate.gov <https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/fending-invaders-warmer-climate> . Accessed September 2020.
Lowerre, Cornelia L.K.
2014 A Submerged Cultural Resources Site Report: HMS Fowey. Master’s thesis, University of Miami, Miami, FL.
Meide, Chuck, James A. McClean, and Edward Wiser
1999 Dog Island Shipwreck Survey 1999: Report of Historical and Archaeological Investigations. Florida State University, Program in Underwater Archaeology, Tallahassee, FL.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2020 Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry. Sea level rise. <https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/socd/lsa/SeaLevelRise/LSA_SLR_timeseries_global.php> Accessed September 2020.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2016 Extended reconstructed sea surface temperature (ERSST.v4). National Centers for Environmental Information. <www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/marineocean-data/extended-reconstructed-sea-surface-temperature-ersst> Accessed March 2016.
North N.A. and I.D. Macleod
1987 Corrosion of metals. In: Conservation of Marine Archaeological Objects, Colin Pearson, editor, pp.68-98. Butterworths, London.
1998 The environment of historic shipwreck sites: a review of the preservation of materials, site formation and site environmental assessment. Master’s thesis, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
2014 A Desk-based Assessment to Compile Baseline Information on Recorded Presence of the Shipworms Teredo navalis and Lyrodus pedicellatus in English Waters. Unpublished report for English Heritage, ref. 6804.
Rahel, Frank J. and Julian D. Olden
Assessing the effects of climate change on aquatic invasive species. Conservation Biology 22(3):521–533.
2011 Perverse sea change: underwater cultural heritage in the ocean is facing chemical and physical changes. Cultural and heritage arts review, pp 12–16. The Ocean Foundation, Washington, DC.
Wright, Jeneva, Joshua Marano, and Bert Ho
2015 HMS Fowey 2014 Stabilization Project Report. Manuscript, National Park Service, Biscayne National Park, Homestead, Florida.
Results of the January 9, 2021 Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) Government Affairs Advocacy Session:
“Interpreting the 2020 Election: What the Results Mean for Historical Archaeology.”
SHA 2021 Virtual Annual Conference
Marion Werkheiser, SHA’s government affairs consultant
Terry Klein, Chair, SHA Government Affairs Committee
In the first part of this session Marion Werkheiser reviewed the results of the 2020 election and what these results will mean for historic preservation and historical archaeology. Terry Klein then discussed the SHA’s Government Affair Committee’s top three initiatives to be advanced under the new Administration. These initiatives are linked to the new Administration’s environmental and social justice agenda. These initiatives will also have a strong likelihood of success given the new Administration’s appointees to head up federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality.
The Government Affairs Committee’s three top initiatives are:
- Promoting historic preservation.
- Promoting diversity and social justice in historic preservation.
- Tackling climate change and its impact on historical archaeological sites and other heritage resources.
In the second part of the session, Klein and Werkheiser asked session participants to provide their ideas on how SHA can best advance these initiatives over the next few years. Session participants were asked to help develop an action plan for each initiative that addressed the following:
- What should SHA do? Identify the top action items.
- Who should SHA talk to about in order to best advance these action items? Government? Private sector? Others? What is the message?
- Who may be our partners in carrying out these action items? How do we engage them?
- Who within SHA or associated with SHA should take the lead in carrying out these action items?
Session participants were also asked if there were any other initiatives that SHA should pursue.
The following is a summary of the session participants discussions and recommendations:
Promoting Historic Preservation
We are five years from the 250th celebration of the nation. Session participants recommended building on and becoming part of this celebration as a way to advance both historic preservation and promoting diversity and social justice in historic preservation. Action items can include:
- Telling the fuller story of the American experience.
- Educating the public about the diversity of our nation and the value of that diversity.
- Showcasing Native American sites both in the East and in the West dating to the time of European contact.
- Using the celebration as an opportunity to promote the National Historic Preservation Act and increasing historic preservation funding.
- Working closely with organizations already involved in the celebration, including, but not limited to the National Park Service, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCHSPO), the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO), other tribal organizations (including Native American tourism organizations), and state-specific groups and organizations.
- Establishing a SHA task force for the celebration and involve all SHA committees.
- Encouraging SHA members to get involved in preparations for the celebration at the local level.
In terms of other action items related to promoting historic preservation, session participants recommended:
- Raising the profile of archaeology in the historic preservation community so that archaeology is understood to be an integral part of historic preservation – not separate from it.
- Developing a one-pager on archaeology, what it does and why it is vital to communities and society in general. SHA members should use this one-pager when meeting with federal, state, and local officials, and also members of the public. Note in the one-pager (and through other platforms) that archaeology is not just excavation. Archaeologists are involved in the preservation of sacred places of value to many different communities. Preservation of sacred places is a useful entry point for building historic preservation coalitions.
Promoting Diversity and Social Justice in Historic Preservation
In terms of action items related to this initiative, session participants recommended:
- Increasing coordination with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) professionals who work on environmental justice issues.
- Increasing national recognition of Native American and African American sites, especially in terms of listing these sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Current application of the criteria for listing on the National Register (e.g., aspects of integrity) are not conducive to these types of sites. These sites are too often identified as not having sufficient integrity and as a result are not worthy of listing. This approach ignores the nature of these sites and the communities that built and used these sites.
- Documenting the extent to which African American sites have been listed on the National Register and state registers. In addition, use information on these listed sites to promote African American history.
- Documenting and showcasing to the public all of the work and research on federal lands involving African American sites and other sites of underrepresented communities. There is a wealth of untapped information and histories.
- Increasing funding to the National Register for improving legacy record digitization and public access to the information in these records. And also increase funding for digitizing state site records. Funding should also be made available for maintaining these federal and state site databases.
- Working with the American Battlefield Protection Program to increase the number of Native American sites from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 on the Program’s list.
Climate Change and Its Impact on Historical Archaeological Sites and Other Heritage Resources
In terms of action items related to this initiative, session participants recommended:
- Advocating for the management and protection of sites in the U.S. territories, which are especially vulnerable.
- Using the archaeological record and archaeological research to inform policy makers on the impacts and responses to climate change. The past has lessons that can be applied to current understanding and decision-making involving climate change.
- Working with federal agencies, such as FEMA, to advance pro-active planning for the management and protection of terrestrial and underwater sites impacted by climate change, and this includes promoting increased agency funding for pre-disaster planning and mitigation.
- Supporting and funding programs that use members of the public (citizen scientists) to identify and monitor coastal sites in the U.S. and U.S. territories being impacted by climate change.
Additional Government Affairs Initiative
Session participants identified an additional initiative that addressed the archaeological labor force. SHA, in partnership with other organizations such as the American Cultural Resource Association and the Register of Professional Archaeologists, should:
- More effectively support the people actually doing archaeology.
- Demonstrate to policy makers at the federal and state level, the economic benefits of jobs in archaeology. When meeting with members of Congress and state officials to advocate for historic preservation, we should include discussions on the archaeology labor force and its economic benefits to communities. Also, include this topic in the one-pager discussed above.
In closing, session participants recommended developing a webinar for SHA members on the results of this session. This webinar should also discuss how SHA members can actively participate in and support the advancement of these government affairs initiatives.
The Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) Government Affairs Committee is busy planning for the new Administration and new Congress. We invite you to join us for a robust, interactive discussion of SHA’s legislative and policy priorities during our session at SHA’s virtual 2021 conference, on Saturday, January 9. The session is entitled “Interpreting the 2020 Election: What the Results Mean for Historical Archaeology.”
Over the next two years, we’ll focus our advocacy on three themes: promoting preservation, increasing diversity, and confronting climate change.
- SHA will lobby for increased funding for historic preservation and counter attempts to curtail reviews of projects that may impact heritage and cultural resources.
- We will promote diversity within the discipline and support federal, state, and local preservation policies that tell the stories of underrepresented communities, and that protect the places valued by these communities.
- We will also advocate for policies that respond to climate change and the threat it poses to archaeological sites in the U.S. and around the world.
The Committee is planning to hit the ground running with the new Congress in January, arranging virtual meetings with Members to discuss our priorities and develop relationships. We have already begun engaging with the Biden transition team to raise awareness about historical archaeology and urgent topics, including supporting appointments to critical positions within the government.
We look forward to sharing more at our conference session and hearing your ideas about how SHA can best advance these initiatives. Please join us at the January 9th session. This will be an opportunity for you actively participate in these important advocacy efforts.
Students! You may be asking yourself: “What exactly is the Past Presidents’ Student Reception?”, “Will the reception still be happening this year?”, or “How do I participate?” Well, this is the blog post to answer all of your questions.
“What exactly is the Past Presidents’ Student Reception?”
In years before the pandemic, where we could meet in person and network, the Past Presidents’ Reception provided an opportunity for students to network with previous SHA presidents (hence the title) and leading professionals in the areas of Academia, CRM, Public Engagement, Underwater Archaeology, and so on. The Reception prided itself on being an informal and welcoming place where students can ask for advice, career stories, and make connections that will last throughout their career.
“Will the reception still be happening this year?”
How do we create this reception environment during the virtual conference? Easy- more video calls.
This year the reception will be divided into sections based on career paths, with three leading professionals in each section.
Wednesday January 6
Federal, State, and Local Agencies
State Cultural Resources Specialist/Archaeologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Program Analyst/Federal Highway Administration Liaison, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Regional Heritage Program Leader, Southwestern Region, U.S. Forest Service
Friday January 8th
Academia – Advanced Degrees
Professor of Anthropology, University of Delaware
Professor, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Friday January 8th
Private Sector Cultural Resource Management
Maritime Services Practice Leader, Gray & Pape, Inc
President, Statistical Research, Inc.
Director of Administration, New South Associates
Friday January 8th
Director, Southeast/Southwest Regions, Florida Public Archaeology Network
Executive Director, Florida Public Archaeology Network
Associate Director, Florida Public Archaeology Network
Saturday January 9th
Museums – Collections
Professor of Anthropology, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Director, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory
Professor, University of Idaho
Saturday January 9th
Vice President, Ships of Discovery
Business Development Manager/Sr. Marine Archaeologist, Geoscience Earth & Marine Services
Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist/Adjunct Prof. St. Mary’s College of Maryland
“How do I participate?”
Easy enough! Only students who register for the conference can participate in the Reception. To attend, all you need to do is go to the link provided in the final conference program for the career sessions of your choice (or all of them, chat with everyone. You never know what your future holds).
There is no separate, additional registration to participate in this special event.
Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to explore careers in historical archaeology!
Well hello there, fellow archaeology grad student or other interested reader! In this three-part blog series, I will be providing practical advice for using archaeological collections for your PhD dissertation, MA Thesis, or other graduate student work. This is based on my personal experience, the experiences of colleagues, and collective advice I’ve gathered from mentors. In part 1, I’ll be introducing myself and my project, and giving an overview of how to create a project that uses archaeological collections. Part 2 of the series will focus on how to present and advocate for a collections-based project in a proposal or grant application. Part 3 will be about finding funding for your collections-based project.
Jeff Altschul, Co-President, Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis
Terry Klein, Acting Executive Director, Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis
We wanted to alert Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) members about a recent publication from the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS)-sponsored People, Fire, and Pine Research Project. The Society for Historical Archaeology is a CfAS Partner.
Evan R. Larson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller & Lane B. Johnson (2020): People, Fire, and Pine: Linking Human Agency and Landscape in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Beyond, Annals of the American Association of Geographers,
Abstract: The creation and modification of landscape patterns through interactions among people and the environment is a defining focus in the discipline of geography. Here, we contribute to that tradition by placing 500 years of red pine (Pinus resinosa) tree-ring data in the context of archaeological, ethnographic, and paleoecological records to describe patterns of Anishinaabeg land use and fire occurrence in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of northern Minnesota. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that stories of people, fire, and red pine are tightly interwoven in the BWCAW. We suggest that preferential use and maintenance of specific sites with fire by Border Lakes Anishinaabeg before 1900 led to the xerification of forest communities that produced conditions more desirable to people in a rugged nearboreal landscape. Today, after a century of fire absence, these sites represent fading ecological legacies that are still sought by wilderness users for their recreational values and perceived wilderness character. Ironically, protections granted by the 1964 Wilderness Act are resulting in a decline of the red pine forests once used to help justify establishment of the BWCAW. An opportunity exists for wilderness managers, users, and advocacy groups to reassess the need for active management and the strategic return of frequent fire to the aging pine forests of the BWCAW. Engaging descendent communities of the Border Lakes Anishinaabeg in these efforts could help move beyond conventional approaches to wilderness management and restore the reciprocal relationship between people, fire, and red pine in the BWCAW and beyond.
A key objective of the People, Fire, and Pine research team is to meld scientific approaches and traditional knowledge systems into new fire management policies for Wilderness areas. But their objectives extend well beyond forest policy and management to core issues involved in the displacement and disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples from their native lands and culture and the initial steps toward healing the social consequences of these actions. As Larson and his colleagues argue:
Active management in the BWCAW would provide a case study that could be replicated elsewhere to advance conversations around ecological wilderness management while helping to create a more complete understanding of the definition of wilderness itself. Clearly, wilderness as untrammeled is an overgeneralized and inappropriate definition that disregards vital connections between people and place. In the BWCAW, these connections have existed for centuries at minimum and were moderated by fire to create important patterns of ecological diversity within the broader landscape mosaic. This critique is not new to the field of geography, and rarely does this core idea of the 1964 Wilderness Act dictate all management decisions, but it does hold sway in the general perspective of many and must be addressed. Wilderness management must continue to be refined to more explicitly recognize the role of people in creating the pre–European American landscapes of North America, the value of local and traditional knowledge in understanding ecological change, and the fundamental importance of engaging both Western and traditional knowledge systems to ensure that sustainable approaches to management are employed. This is a complex issue infused with concerns around ecological health, remnants of colonialism, and social justice. The BWCAW is a quintessential wilderness landscape that is now enriched with data directly and quantitively linking Anishinaabe land use with some of the most appreciated aspects of forest structure and composition within the protected area. An ideal opportunity exists for managers to authentically engage in shared stewardship with local Indigenous communities to promote cultural exchange, healing, and movement beyond dated ideas of wilderness.
To read the article, follow this link. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
The People, Fire, and Pines project is schedule to be completed at the end of 2020.
For information on the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis, and to become a CfAS Partner or Associate, go to: www.archsynth.org
By Lindsey Cochran, Ph.D.
University of Georgia, Laboratory of Archaeology
Emotionally disheartening article ahead. Beware.
Scientists continue to improve models that predict both the mechanism and result of climate changes, and sadly each prediction is more dire than the last. Modeling predictions that used to assume a 1m global sea level rise (GMSLR) now anticipate at least double that by 2100. We now understand that while greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating slightly above exponential rates and thus appearing to be following a logarithmic rather than linear scale, the IPCC anticipates a speeding up of the effects of these emissions. Because of this suite of accelerating climate effects, built in environmental protections to archaeological sites, such as the mangrove swamps in Florida, the oyster beds around the mouth of the Mississippi, or migrations of the marshy estuaries and back-barrier islands on the Georgia and Carolina coasts are shifting more abruptly decades before impacts of this degree were initially predicted.
If you need a refresher on the impacts of climate change beyond a warming earth and rising sea levels, this 2018 New York Times article provides an excellent summary of the dramatic difference between 1.5℃ and 2℃. For a slightly more involved explanation, check out this NASA briefing. And finally for the tech-heavy nerds we all know and love, CMIP and IPCC provide excellent explanations and links to recent scientific literature.
Archaeologists need to prepare for cascading effects from climate change when creating strategies to mitigate site destruction or simply a timeline to document resources as they succumb to those effects. Rather than presenting a singular case study here, I’d like to illustrate some of these cascading effects by describing a selection of impacts from melting Arctic sea-ice to the archaeology of the southeast United States. To truly prepare for climate changes it’s critical to understand the big picture so that we can adapt our local responses to fast- and slow-moving regional and global events. As large scale computational modeling improves, such as with the CMIP simulations, specific inter-disciplinary interpretations likewise change and improve.
An article of note from March 2020 uses the CMIP6 simulation to estimate that Arctic Ocean will be sea-ice free in September for the first time come 2050 (Notz et al. 2020). September Arctic sea-ice is one of NASA’s “Vital Signs of the Planet,” and the area of the ice extent is now declining at a rate of 12.85% per decade relative to 1981 to 2010 averages. The implication of these studies is that the world is changing more swiftly and more violently than previously imagined. Why should archaeologists care about climate change on the global scale, and for that matter Arctic sea-ice?
Arctic sea-ice is important to consider when studying archaeology of plantation archaeology on Georgia’s barrier islands, for example, because of the suite of cascading effects that stem from a progressively smaller volume of global ice. Generally speaking, the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea-ice impacts the following, many of which are positive feedback loops: (1) albedo effect; (2) thawing permafrost; (3) melting ice-sheets; (4) trapped outgoing longwave radiation; (5) warming inland waterways like rivers, streams, and lakes; and (6) shifting oxygen and nitrogen ratios. Each of these types of changes have significant global effects that impact regions and localities in various and largely unsynthesized ways, as the science is always changing and improving on itself, making immediate estimates of the impact of specific climate changes to a particular site-specific place quite challenging. The table below summarizes effects of sea-ice, broad implications of those effects, gives a sample of changes that will most directly impact archaeological resources, and provide an archaeological scenario or site specific example of impacts, most of which are drawn from the southeast United States.
Broad Impact to Archaeological Resources
Albedo Effect (strong positive feedback loop)
darkening of the earths surface leading to increased temperatures
Accelerating climate impacts
Less time to excavate, mitigate, and react to climate change; increasingly necessary “salvage” mentality
Thawing of offshore permafrost
Methane oxygenation leads to an increase in microbiomes with methane consuming bacteria, impacting the process of terrestrial permafrost thawing
Sensitive fiber, wood, or bone based artifacts degrade when exposed to air and bacteria when permafrost melts
Degradation of shorelines, accelerated rates of GMSLR
Context of sites destroyed due to higher water tables, destabilizing shorelines, bank erosion
Warmer air leads to an increase in water vapor trapped in the formerly cold polar atmosphere
Outgoing long-wave radiation trapped in the atmosphere, further heating the Arctic
Warmer, more humid environment
Conservation challenges in laboratory and historic preservation settings; increased desiccation in situ
Warming rivers -> less ice
Less snow cover leads to increased terrestrial heat absorption, injecting more heat into the rivers and back into the Arctic Ocean
Increased frequency and severity of storms; increased fire risk; increased drought
Site-monitoring moves from assessing gradual change over time to “chunks” of sites disappearing overnight
Shifting Oxygen and Nitrogen ratios
Plants and animals that protect our shorelines (think marshes and oysters) can only live in areas with specific oxygen ratios. Plant and animal dieoff removes a critical barrier that protects shorelines from SLR and storm surges.
Acidified maritime environment; Protective barriers to archaeological sites are removed;
more aggressive shoreline loss
Accelerated degradation of maritime resources; site visibility concerns, increasing number of “no swim” days due to improved conditions for harmful bacteria
Climate change simulations constantly grow in complexity and accuracy, and sadly the current trends indicated in those simulations are become more dire. As archaeologists, it is important to understand, at least superficially, the big [read: overwhelming] picture of climate change because, simply put, our local responses to the archaeology of climate change need to take into consideration broader syntheses of change. These changes are due to a complex multiplicity of causes that each impact archaeological resources in multi-dynamic ways. Implications from any of the six impacts from melting Arctic sea-ice could easily be applied to any coastal site on the Eastern seaboard.
Now, archaeologists that deal with climate change are asked not only to interpret the past within a historical context but also to situate those resources within a cloudy, submerged future. Archaeologists are well poised to join this broader conversation because we can provide a contextual depth to paleoenvironmental, historical, and near-historical data to interpret an environmental baseline for local and regional changes. By the nature of our research, we are multi-disciplinarian scientists. The flexibility of our mental gymnastics are all the more important when evaluating and interpreting research from the climate sciences and how their results impact analysis of cultural resources.
We are happy to announce the next issue of Historical Archaeology will be arriving in your mailboxes soon! Here’s a preview of some of the content from the guest editor of the thematic collection on Historical Bioarchaeology, Shannon A. Novak.
Not only materials suffer the cuts and blows of the maker’s practice. For every strike or punch recoils, on impact, in the body that delivered it.
Tim Ingold and Elizabeth Hallam, Making and Growing (2014)
Given the tremendous growth and developments within the field of bioarchaeology, it is an opportune time to re/introduce the readers of this journal to some of the topics, concerns, and insights bioarchaeologists are contributing to the study of the “modern world.” Of course, “modernity” is a concept that has long been subject to debate and, while the articles in this series do not take on the topic directly, they do grapple with the many traces this process left in its wake, along with the scars and legacies that persist.
Part of this legacy is the relative paucity of human skeletal remains in this journal, the reasons for which are historical and multiple. Despite this general invisibility, bodies are very much present. They work, produce, and consume; they wear, perform, and desire; they exploit, commodify, and resist. While these studies teem with life, the people “doing” rarely acquire substance. Yet theirs are the bodies that made and were made by the so-called modern world. Such making, as Ingold and Hallam note above, is co-constituting; it takes a toll on materials and bodies alike. Bodily concerns and their material properties are, therefore, “vital data” in studies of modernity and daily practice. Indeed, by reconstituting these tissues—their affordances and constraints—archaeological inquiries are vitalized in simple, but important, ways.
In this series of articles, we explore the possibilities of bringing the materiality of archaeological bodies back into the conversation, into anthropological inquiries, and into the pages of this journal. The contributors weave together an impressive array of materials to consider the dynamic processes of “becoming” at multiple scales. Ethics and care, nation building and citizenship, labor coerced and resisted, intersect with diverse material forms. Importantly, these studies start with a question or concern that does not necessarily privilege human tissues (bone or teeth), but rather position their findings in relation to other processes and things. Their inquiries involve “with,” rather than “or,” allowing us to move away from the old trope of testing the historical record with truths written in bone. Our hope is that readers of this special series will be exposed to the rich potential of “historical (bio)archaeology,” and motivated to engage with the diversity of people and their traces—more broadly conceived.
Vital Data: Re/Introducing Historical Bioarchaeology, by Shannon A. Novak and Alanna L. Warner-Smith
An Alter(ed)native Perspective on Historical Bioarchaeology, by Rachel J. Watkins
Caring Differently: Some Reflections, by Tony J. Chamoun
Building Nation, Become Object: The Biopolitics of the Samuel G. Morton Crania Collection, by Pamela L. Geller
Assembling Heads and Circulating Tales: The Doings and Undoings of Specimen 2032, by Shannon A. Novak and Alanna L. Warner-Smith
Working in the City: A Historical Bioarchaeology of Activity in Urban New Spain, by Julie K. Wesp
Restoring Identity to People and Place: Reanalysis of Human Skeletal Remains from a Cemetery at Catoctin Furnace, Maryland, by Karin S. Bruwelheide, Douglas W. Owsley, Kathryn G. Barca, Christine A.M. France, Nicole C. Little, and Elizabeth Anderson Comer
The Body Politic and the Citizen’s Mouth: Oral Health and Dental Care in Nineteenth Century Manhattan, by Lauren Hosek, Alanna L. Warner-Smith, and Cristina C. Watkins
“Against Shameless and Systematic Calumny”: Strategies of Domination and Resistance and their Impact on the Bodies of the Poor in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by Jonny Geber and Barra O’Donnabhain
Still Life: A Bioarchaeological Portrait of Perinatal Remains Buried at the Spring Street Presbyterian Church, by Meredith A.B. Ellis
Reflecting on a More Inclusive Historical Bioarchaeology, by Jennifer L. Muller
Cover image: Engraving, “New York City Medical College for Women, East Twelfth Street and Second Avenue–Student Dissecting a Leg,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, New York, April 16, 1870