New UNP-SHA Publication and Author Perspective

Submitted by Rebecca Allen
Environmental Science Associates (ESA), Cultural Resources Director
SHA Associate Editor

In 2011, the University of Nebraska Press and the SHA jointly published the first of the Historical
Archaeology of the American West Series. Annalies Corbin and I are series editors, and over the course
of this year, we will be contributing to the SHA blog to highlight authors in this series. The primary goal
of SHA’s co-publication program is to expand our membership’s publication opportunities, and find
more partners to promote our field. UNP publishes many titles in American Studies, Anthropology,
History, and Native American and Indigenous studies. The press regularly exhibits at western regional
and national history conferences, bringing the topic of historical archaeology to a wider audience.

Take advantage of the discount to order your copies of new volumes by Jun Sunseri and Chris Merritt.
On behalf of the SHA, I’d like to thank these authors, as all royalties in this series return to SHA
publications, to fund future studies. And please contact me ( if you are interested
in contributing a volume in this series.


Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico
Jun U. Sunseri
240 pages
3 photographs, 39 graphs, 5 maps, 16 illustrations, 4 tables, index

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico examines pluralistic communities that navigated between colonial and indigenous practices to negotiate strategic alliances
with both sides of generations-old conflicts. The rich history of the southwestern community of Casitas
Viejas straddles multiple cultures and identities and is representative of multiple settlements in the
region of northern New Mexico that served as a “buffer,” protecting the larger towns of New Spain from
Apache, Navajo, Ute, and Comanche raiders. These genízaro settlements of Indo-Hispano settlers used
shrewd cross-cultural skills to survive.

Researching the dynamics of these communities has long been difficult, due in large part to the lack of
material records. In this innovative case study, Jun U. Sunseri examines persistent cultural practices
among families who lived at Casitas Viejas and explores the complex identities of the region’s
communities. Applying theoretical and methodological approaches, Sunseri adds oral histories,
performative traditions of contemporary inhabitants, culinary practices, and local culture to traditional
archaeology to shed light on the historical identities of these communities that bridged two worlds.


RA: What are some of your motivations for writing this book?

JS: Discussions with my colleagues, the SHA co-publication editors, and editors at UNP reminded me that
this story that I first addressed in my dissertation was truly worth re-working and re-telling, and they
helped me bring it alive. In more ways than I can count, the opportunity to work closely with the
descendant community and a rich network of scholars on this project was rewarding and truly affirming of why I left engineering for archaeology. I am hoping to share some of that energy and the nuances of
the story with a wider audience.

RA: Who would you like to read this book? Who is your audience?

JS: First and foremost, this book is dedicated to the descendant community and the places and people
who guided, protected, and sacrificed to bring the work to fruition. It is incredibly gratifying to hear that
advance copies are already being read enthusiastically and handed from person to person there. I am
also hoping that communities who are also struggling with land and water rights, for whom archaeology
has not always been a service or a resource, might be inspired to connect and build coalitions with each

RA: Now that you have published this book, what kinds of things are you dreaming up next? What is in
the works?

JS: I’ve already been asked to present with community partners about this book this fall in New Mexico
and we are looking forward to building momentum on a number of issues related to this work. Other
villages in New Mexico have asked for partnerships related to these kinds of complex cultural
patrimonies. I might change gears for a little while and concentrate on method and theory a little more,
specifically issues of labor and scales of economy related to butchery and other human-animal

Ceramics Identification is Clear as Mud

Collage of earthenware and stoneware images.

When I (Lindsay) first started visiting archaeological collections from historic kiln sites in the mid-Atlantic for my dissertation research, I found time and again that the same researcher had already been there: Brenda Hornsby Heindl. We eventually met, and learned that we had distinct but complementary interests in these collections. Brenda is a stoneware potter, and has focused her recent research on historic kiln and ceramic production technology. I research coarse earthenware production and trade in the Atlantic World. In other words, we love to get very technical about clays, kilns, and all things pottery-related! At this year’s SHA annual meeting, we led a workshop that had been several years in the making, “Clear as Mud: A Toolkit for Identifying Coarse Earthenwares and Stonewares.”

Table of stoneware examples.


This workshop idea arose because both of us have been frustrated by the issues plaguing coarse earthenware and stoneware identification in archaeological collections. These wares are ubiquitous, and superficially share a number of characteristics. Yet at the same time, as handmade items, each varies in ways that may seem random to the casual observer. These wares also tend to lack the defined date ranges we have come to expect for most historic ceramics. For these reasons, many archaeologists fall back on general categories such as “American Stoneware” or “Redware,” lumping sherds into large groups that are not very useful analytically. After years spent digging through boxes of wasters and kiln furniture from pottery production sites, and many hours spent with microscopes, mass spectrometers, and pottery wheels, we have come to recognize some key patterns for earthenware and stoneware identification. Generally there is no single attribute, but a constellation of attributes that together are diagnostic.


Lindsay lecturing on lead glazes.

Our goal in this workshop was to train participants to recognize the characteristics that are meaningful markers of production method and source. Attributes like firing cores and glazing patterns can be tied to specific production practices that may have temporal, geographic, or ethnic connections. Better identification of these wares has a big payoff for research, from improved mean ceramic dates (MCDs) and site chronologies, to providing evidence for trade at all levels, from very local to global.

Earthenware briquettes, illustrating how temperature affects color, texture, and density.

It was important to us that the participants learned as we did, by being able to handle and study a variety of broken and complete pots. So, we packed up our study collections and brought the many boxes with us to New Orleans. The four-hour workshop toggled between lectures and hands-on activities. We provided each table with a pile of sherds representing different ware types, vessel forms, and sources. Participants sorted these in various ways, as they learned about kiln firing temperature and atmosphere, surface treatments and vessel form. At the front of the room we laid out a table of earthenware vessels and a table of stoneware vessels, each piece illustrating different technological and origin markers. We also set up a digital microscope with mounted sherd cross-sections, to show how characteristic aplastic inclusions could point to a vessel’s source.


Participants at work sorting sherds.

While the conditions in the conference room were arctic, feedback from the workshop has been very positive. In the post-workshop survey, responses have been evenly split between those who found the lectures most useful, and those who learned more from the hands-on activities, with several responses valuing both equally. We recognize that many archaeologists are working with limited study collections or without access to identified materials. Online galleries are great, but they can’t substitute (yet) for the tactile and three-dimensional nature of the objects themselves. The “emery board” texture of London-area redware, the gleam of a well-salted Westerwald stoneware are difficult to capture in pictures. As archaeologists we need more opportunities to handle unfamiliar artifacts and share diagnostic materials. In this brief experience, we only introduced a small fraction of the body of knowledge to be gained from these artifacts. However, we hope that some of our participants now agree that “clear as mud” doesn’t have to be an oxymoron when it comes to historic pottery production. The answers are written in the clay.

If you want to really understand the handmade pottery in your collections, we recommend the following:

  • Keep a microscope on hand for ceramics analysis. Pay attention to inclusions, clay mixing, and texture. If you’re permitted to make fresh breaks, use a set of tile nippers to obtain a small clean cross-section to examine. You’ll discover there’s a lot more variation than you thought.
  • Take a pottery class! Many community colleges or parks and recreation departments offer classes for adults. Once you start playing with clay and watching it transform into fired pots, you’ll gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for these wares.

Lindsay analyzing sherd under the microscope.

Brenda at a pottery wheel illustrating throwing techniques. Maybe next year we’ll bring a wheel to St. Charles?

Lindsay Bloch, Ceramic Technology Lab, Florida Museum of Natural History

Brenda Hornsby Heindl, Ceramics Department, Jeffrey S. Evans and AssociatesLiberty Stoneware

#SHA2018 Session: How to Advocate for Archaeological Preservation in the New Political Climate

Want to Learn How to Advocate for the Preservation of Historical Archaeological Sites in the Era of Trump? Be Sure to Participate in the Following Interactive Session at the 2018 Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting, New Orleans:

If You Are Not At the Table You Are On The Menu:
How to Be an Advocate for Historical Archaeology in Today’s Political Environment
Facilitated by Marion Werkheiser, J.D. and Terry H. Klein, M.A., RPA.
Thursday, January 4th, 8:00-10:00 AM, Studio 7
(check final program to confirm session location and time)

Given today’s political environment, we must all be advocates for historical archaeology. If we are not fully engaged in the political process, then we must live with the consequences resulting from our inaction. In this working session, you will learn the ins and outs of being an advocate for historical archaeology. After a review of the current threats to government-supported and mandated historical archaeology in the United States, we will break into small groups to discuss:

· How and where should you meet your Congressional and state representatives, and federal and state agencies?

· How do you convey the value of historical archaeology in a way they will understand and appreciate?

· How can you partner with others to promote the value of historical archaeology to government decision-makers?

Each group will be facilitated by an expert in archaeological advocacy. You will also receive a package of materials that will help you in your future advocacy efforts.

So you’re considering a large-scale public archaeology event…

Warriors of AniKituhwa engage audience in the bear dance (Photo by Jill Wall, Morganton News-Herald, 2017).

In 2017, the Exploring Joara Foundation (EJF) began the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the meeting between the Spanish Juan Pardo expeditionary force and the local native people. It is also the 450th anniversary of the founding of Fort San Juan at Joara. The crowning jewel of an ambitious schedule of events was a large community festival.  We are, however, a very small public archaeology foundation with a staff of two. While the August 5th event was successful and very well received by the regional community and our Native American tribal participants, there was a steep learning curve.  For this post, I would like to offer some tips and considerations for those who may be planning a 1000+ participant event for the first time.

Stick to a Theme

Whether your event is a singular occurrence (as ours was) or part of new annual initiative, it’s difficult to cover all aspects of the archaeological heritage you’re highlighting well.  Apply your undergrad term paper writing skills to laser focus your message to streamline event planning and support your organization’s mission.  Inviting all the vendors and the reenactors and the skills experts might build your organization’s partnership list. However, together they may offer a muddled message that will confuse an audience unused to an archaeology festival in the first place.  These early planning processes will ensure all the time and resources spent on the event will produce the maximum amount of benefit for you, your partners, and the community.

Reenacted presentation of gifts by Juan Pardo to Joarans (Photo by author, 2017).

For example, while we did share the Berry Site story and excavations, we chose to commemorate the events of 1567 by providing a platform for modern descendant tribal communities to share their stories and experiences. The goal was to further EJF’s public outreach mission. In addition to artifacts and archaeology-themed children’s activities, the event included a reenactment of Juan Pardo meeting the chiefs of Joara (executed by Mark Menendez, the Men of Menéndez, the Jager Companie von Roeder reenactors, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Warriors of AnniKituhwa), and performances by a North Carolina intertribal dance troupe.

Most of the event’s vendors were from North and South Carolina tribal communities. Altogether, we had representatives from six of North Carolina’s eight state recognized tribes (Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Sappony, and Waccamaw-Siouan). We also invited our long time partners from the Catawba Nation of South Carolina. The Catawba historically inhabited the Catawba River valley of North Carolina and are a descendant community of the Mississippian Joarans. Visitors raved about the traditional crafts, the informative interactions, and the historical and modern powwow-style dancing. We presented a tangible, accessible path between the data and living cultures.

Consideration of Committees and Community Partners

NC Intertribal Dance troupe performer answers visitor’s questions (Photo by Jill Wall, Morganton News-Herald, 2017).

Planning should not rest on the shoulders of one or two people. Other archaeologists, historians, state, and education folk are brilliant contributors but they are not necessarily local logistics experts. Balance is key for large-scope events. In a just-shy-of-too-late stroke of genius, we reached out to the City of Morganton Main Street Department. Their experienced festival and event staff connected us to food vendors, free access to city tents, tables, and chairs, and a borrowed sound system. This help saved us time and a great deal of money. Our work has complimented the city’s and county’s own marketing efforts in the past and they were eager to help with this new style of event. The local county tourism office also awarded us a marketing grant. Even the mayor called to ask if he could open the event. Don’t overlook the resources and enthusiastic staff of your local governments.

Timing is Everything

Be sure and give yourself plenty of time to allow all these wonderful partnership and committees to function properly. Close to 2,000 people came out to our event, but there could have been more. Event planning and performer outreach took longer than expected, which delayed marketing efforts. If our committees were better employed, then the multitasking would have been more efficient. Do yourself a favor and start actively working on your event at least a year before.  While there will always be stress in the weeks leading up to a large event, it won’t be a “will it/won’t it happen at all” sort of stress if staffing and scheduling are effective.

In Conclusion

Newest Spanish recruit (Photo by Jill Wall, Morganton News-Herald, 2017).

Large scale events can be a very powerful method of sharing archaeology with the public. However, as many archaeologists are not event planners, the prospect of a festival may be intimidating. Relying on a wide variety of archaeological and non-archaeological partners and providing plenty of planning time helps. Planners should also take special consideration of the message. Make sure it rings clear even to those in the community simply looking forward to a new opportunity to get funnel cake. A successful event, like our 450th Fest, will bring more attention to and participation in your regular efforts and strengthen bonds with familiar and new community partners, making the whole process worthwhile.

Have you planned a very large public outreach event before? What did I miss? What other helpful suggestions do you have for event logistics, marketing, or message?


Melissa A Timo, EJF Staff Archaeologist


Wall, Lisa

2017 Celebrating the 450th Anniversary of Joara. News-Herald 5 August. Morganton, NC. <>. Accessed 6 October 2017.

New Thematic Issue of Historical Archaeology: The Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project

During the summer of 2007, detailed mapping and archaeological excavations were conducted at the Mardi Gras Shipwreck, the remains of an unidentified, wooden-hulled sailing vessel. Located in 4,000 feet of water 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project was considered at that time to be the deepest archaeological excavation ever conducted. The shipwreck itself is an amazing site with an artifact assemblage dating to the first decades of the 19th century. In the latest thematic issue of Historical Archaeology, the story of this project from its genesis as a Federal regulatory enforcement action to the reinterpretation of the data is provided. SHA members can access these articles online here:

Introductory articles describe the site’s discovery, and the field methods, tools, and technology needed for excavation in deep water, and provide an overview of the Gulf of Mexico’s unique and fascinating history at the time the ship slipped beneath the waves. Subsequent articles describe the material culture identified at this site including ceramics and bottles, a ship’s stove, firearms and cannon, navigational equipment, and the techniques employed to conserve recovered artifacts. Other articles describe the public outreach and documentary film production that took place in support of the project. Finally, the concluding article examines additional artifacts and site formation processes, and provides a new interpretation of the Mardi Gras Shipwreck. The paper titles include:

Introduction: The Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project: The Story of an Early Nineteenth-Century Wooden-Hulled Sailing Ship

Christopher E. Horrell, Amy A. Borgens Pages 323–328

The Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project: Overview of Methods and Tools

Jack B. Irion Pages 329–336

Mercantilism, Warfare, or Privateering? Providing the Historical Context for the Mardi Gras Shipwreck Site

Melanie Damour Pages 337–350

Land, Ho! Maritime Navigation through the Early Nineteenth Century as Represented by the Mardi Gras Shipwreck

Dave Ball Pages 351–358

Analysis of the Mardi Gras Shipwreck Ship’s Stove

Christopher E. Horrell Pages 359–378

The Glass and Ceramic Assemblage of the Mardi Gras Shipwreck

Ben Ford Pages 379–391

Artillery and Arms from the Mardi Gras Shipwreck

Amy A. Borgens Pages 392–409

The Conservation Research Laboratory and Conservation of Artifacts from the Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project

Helen Dewolf Pages 410–417

Lights, Camera … Shipwreck!?! Multimedia at Four Thousand Feet

Kimberly L. Faulk, Rick Allen Pages 418–424

Deep Thoughts: A Look at Public Access to Deepwater Sites through the Mardi Gras Shipwreck

Della A. Scott-Ireton Pages 425–432

The Mardi Gras Shipwreck Project: A Final Overview with New Perspectives

Christopher E. Horrell, Amy A. Borgens Pages 433–450


Memorial: George Robert Fischer (1937–2016)

Russell K. Skowronek Pages 451–461



What’s the Role of Archaeology in Education Curricula? Project Archaeology: Investigating a Shotgun House

By: M. Jay Stottman
Kentucky Archaeological Survey






Although teachers have sought archaeological information to supplement their curricula for decades, it has only been within the last twenty years that archaeologists have made a concerted effort to introduce their research to educators through archaeology-based content and activities.  Much of this work has privileged an archaeological perspective that is largely focused on archaeological research and stewardship.  The goal of such a perspective focuses on promoting a better understanding of what archaeologists do, how important that work is, and preserving archaeological resources.  The Project Archaeology:   Investigating a Shotgun House curriculum, developed by the Kentucky Archaeological Survey and Project Archaeology, considers archaeology and its role in education differently.  The goals of this curriculum are based on activist perspectives in archaeology where community needs are given equal weight to those of archaeology.  In education, this perspective is less about the specific needs and issues of archaeology and more about how archaeology can be used to help teachers teach.  In other words, archaeology is a vehicle for teaching rather than just what is being taught.

Because archaeology is inherently evidence-and inquiry-based, the focus of the Project Archaeology:  Investigating a Shotgun House curriculum, as with other Investigating Shelter case studies,  is on the process of archaeology, not just the products of research.  The process by which archaeologists do their work is a great way to engage students in learning about and applying the skills of inquiry by developing research questions, collecting evidence, and making interpretations.   Through this process students learn about the relationship of objects to people in different contexts, which highlights human intelligence, ingenuity, innovation, and agency.  They learn about a variety of humanities topics, such as class, race, ethnicity, and community.  The lessons and activities in the curriculum are focused on this process and are derived specifically from archaeological research of a shotgun house in the Davis Bottoms neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky.  The people of this marginalized neighborhood are diverse, but they share the class and condition of poverty, from which they had built a tight knit community.  The impetus for the archaeological research, a highway project, led to a present day battle for community identity and social justice.

Archaeologist Lori Stahlgren Works with Teachers at a Project Archaeology Workshop (by author, 2009).

The activist perspective used in the development of this curriculum and the real story about the Davis Bottom resident’s plight connects the study of the past with present day issues of civic engagement and social and environmental justice.  Not only do students learn about the process of inquiry, but they learn about the history and development of a marginalized community and how they can relate to its people.  They also are encouraged to become informed civic decision makers and to seek ways to take action.   The role of archaeology from this perspective prioritizes teaching the skills of inquiry, understanding that evidence is important, that the past informs the present, and becoming civically engaged. 

So has this perspective abandoned the needs of archaeology?  Not necessarily, with the use of archaeology as a vehicle to teach inquiry, students gain an understanding of and a respect for archaeology, which allows for the consideration of archaeological ethics and stewardship.  The difference is that our archaeological goals are less overt than more direct stewardship messaging.  Through the curriculum teachers and students discover the importance of archaeological research and stewardship for themselves.  So what is the role of archaeology in education?  Should it be primarily to promote archaeological needs and issues?  Should it be to primarily serve students and teachers?  Should it be both?  These questions create a bit of philosophical tension regarding the goals of archaeology and our control of it.  Should we consider educational and archaeological goals equally?  Should we always be overt in our preservation messages when using archaeology in education?


To learn more about Project Archaeology and the Investigating Shelter Curriculum visit

To learn more about the Davis Bottoms Neighborhood project visit:


Henderson, A. Gwynn, M. Jay Stottman, Robin L. Jones, and Linda S. Levstik

2016    Project Archaeology Investigating a Shotgun House:  A Curriculum Guide for Grades 3 through 5.  Kentucky Archaeological Survey, Lexington and Project Archaeology, Bozeman, MT.

Transitioning from Student to Faculty Member

Emily Dale, Ph.D.

Lecturer, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona

Congratulations! You’ve graduated with your M.A. or Ph.D. and are now entering the world of Academia! I recently did the same thing. I earned my PhD in May 2016 from the University of Nevada, Reno in Anthropology with an emphasis in Historical Archaeology. The week after I graduated, I got an offer for a Lecturer position at Northern Arizona University in the Anthropology Department. After a year in the new position, I can look back and see where transitioning from student to faculty member went more smoothly and where the rough patches almost got the best of me. So, to help you, here’s some advice. We’ll start with the depressing.

First, PTDD (Post-Thesis Depression Disorder) is completely real. Not in a clinical, it’s in the DSM sense of real, but it exists and it gets quite a few of us. I spent the first week or so after handing in my final draft of my dissertation depressed. I should have been relieved! Years of work had finally paid off, and I had compiled everything into 500 pages I was quite proud of. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed or talking to people. I found myself in my advisor’s office crying, but without being able to explain why. A search of the Chronicle of Higher Ed Forums for “depression” led to me a several-page long thread of people expressing the same feelings after successfully submitting or defending their thesis or dissertation or graduating. I wasn’t alone. I talked with friends and colleagues and found others who felt the same. Everyone said similar things—instead of relief, there was a sense of pointlessness. A “what do I do now?” As master’s and doctoral students, we expend so much of our energy on our projects that when we’re done, that sense of purpose disappears. I had a fellowship that year, which prevented me from taking another job. I had no grading, no classes to attend, no lectures to prepare. I was suddenly left with nothing to do. I was lucky in that my PTDD only lasted about a week before my dissertation defense, job applications, packing, moving, summer school, and other obligations lifted me out. For others I’ve talked to, those feelings of depression lasted weeks or even months. But they were perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

Second, there are no tenure-track jobs. Don’t listen to people who assure you that getting a Ph.D. means a secure job is out there waiting for you. The market crash meant fewer older faculty retired, and higher education is increasingly considered as a business transaction, which means universities, colleges, and community colleges are hiring more and more lecturers and adjunct professors. I don’t regret my Ph.D., but I am fully aware of the fact that I will likely never get a tenure-track position, not because I’m not good enough, but simply because those jobs are going the way of the Neanderthal (or Colonoware for you historical archaeologists). So, be flexible. If you want to teach, that’s great! But you may need to take a lecturer position with no possibility for promotion and a 4/4 teaching load. Or a series of adjunct positions at a variety of schools. I was lucky/smart in my graduate career as I was able to teach undergrad classes as a Graduate Assistant and picked up extra classes at a local community college. When I left grad school, I knew I loved teaching and wanted to teach. If you want to do research, that’s great, too! But be adaptive. Figure out what your program does well or doesn’t have and adapt to that. You might not be able to work at your dream site, so find a new one. Basically, know your strengths and weaknesses, build a basic skill set in teaching and archaeology and build off of that. In a world where stable jobs are hard to come by, you have to make yourself indispensable to your university one way or another so you are the one who gets hired back. 

Now, for the good. No matter where you get a job, whether it’s near where you went to school or across the country, there are pros and cons to be aware of. I taught locally, as I said, but ended up getting a job in another state, so I’ve experienced both sides.

Let’s say you end up staying close to your university, maybe at the same institution. This comes with the upside of having an established support system of friends, family, and colleagues who know you and you can rely on. You probably already know the student body and their needs and unique quirks, so reusing old classes or creating new ones will be easier. On the flip side, so many of those people you already know will likely remember you as “Emily, the Grad Student.” Transitioning to Dr. So-and-So can be hard. You’re surrounded by former teachers and friends who haven’t yet graduated, but you have a new status, and remembering that comes with a bigger dose of imposter syndrome if you’re surrounded by the same people.

Now, let’s say you move elsewhere. Here, you’ll have to build a brand new support system—make new friends and figure out department dynamics and politics. The student body can be completely different. I went from a larger institution in Nevada to a much smaller one in Arizona, meaning the students in my new classes were more often first generation or struggled in high school. This is not a judgement on either sets of students I taught, but I did have to completely rewrite some of my syllabi and lessons to better help my new students succeed. On the other hand, I came in to NAU as Dr. Emily Dale. No one questioned my new status, so feeling like a real professor was much easier, and I feel like less of a phony as a result.

If I leave you with anything, it’s this: if you are struggling in any way, with PTDD, the job market, faculty responsibilities, life in general, anything, take advantage of the mental health services offered by your institution. Most offer some form of free or discounted therapy or counseling, wellness programs, or other services aimed at keeping their faculty happy, healthy, and sane. You cannot take care of your research, students, or other professional responsibilities if you do not take care of yourself first.

Excavating Academic Professionalization

Rebecca S. Graff
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois, USA

In the American academic job market, it seems neoliberally optimistic if not willfully obtuse to suggest to graduate students and early career archaeologists that, if only they adjust some personal practices to become more professional, they will successfully find and retain employment. Structurally speaking, “professionalization” at this individual level will not alter the corporatizing of the academic job market, with up to 70% contingent faculty in a professoriate with deteriorating working conditions. It won’t impact a public sector whose existence is threatened by government agency closures and reviews of existing National Monuments and antiquities legislation. And it can’t resolve the issues surrounding what constitutes academic labor. That being said, there remain legitimate reasons to think seriously about professionalization.

In writing this post I reached out to colleagues in a variety of archaeological careers and stages (grad student, recent grad, postdoc, administrator, untenured T-T professor, etc.) to get their thoughts on professionalization. The pieces of advice that follow, grouped by theme, come from myself and from these women in my network, who generously took some time to think about lessons we learned. A couple of caveats: First, since professionalization can mean a variety of different things, note that many of the suggestions listed below treat professionalization as a social practice and a mindset associated with those practices and interactions. Second, these interactions are very personal and play out among intersecting gender, race, class, and (sub)disciplinary identities within these social institutions. Thus for me as an assistant professor of anthropology at a small liberal arts college, who has worked at larger R1 and R2 universities, including as an archivist in academic libraries, many but not all of the suggestions ring true. Take what you think will help you, and ignore the rest (another good thing to remember when people give you advice!).

Self-Identity/Creation of Public Self

  • Own your expertise. Say aloud what you are an expert in (use that word, it’s hard!), until it comes naturally. Imposter syndrome is real!
  • Please replace “in my dissertation” with “in my upcoming book, article, whatever” whenever possible (especially job talks!).
  • Learn from others, learn to work with others to achieve what you need, and learn to lead in a way that is effective and fulfilling for you.
  • Be an “ethnographer” and pay attention to the institutions you are interested in as well as the people who populate them.
  • Be observant: when you’re in a room of academics, watch the dynamics.
  • Consider how you might comport yourself professionally. I recall attending meetings as a grad student where others were clearly not paying attention—cleaning their wallets out, checking their phones, etc. People notice these actions and may negatively perceive them.
  • Remember to review and/or “curate” your presence on social media. Everyone checks this.
  • Sit on a difficult email for a bit before sending a response, and remember that all email is potentially public—you never know who else might read it.
  • In the classroom, it’s ok to insist on “Professor” or “Doctor.” I like this poem by Susan Harlan on the gendered dynamics of instructor naming conventions.

Work/Life “Balance”

  • Prioritize finding some kind of work-life balance. You’ll have more energy to be the best scholar/teacher/colleague you can be if you’ve recharged by doing something other than your job….Of course, that assumes that you don’t have to teach five courses a semester and hold a part-time job just to cover your rent, student loans, and day care.
  • Learn how to say no. As per the article I linked to [Epistemic Reproductive Labor and the “Academic Wife”], women end up doing a lot of uncredited work. Prioritize things that are important for your career/family. Never commit to things immediately; walk away and think about it for 24 hours.
  • Stop apologizing—for your family needs, tardy reply, whatever.
  • There is never a good time to have children.

Networking and Job Searches

  • Do attend and present at academic conferences, but stop putting panels together that are just you and your grad school friends. It’s important to use these opportunities to meet scholars from other institutions and organizations.
  • Never go over time in a job talk. The floor will open up and swallow you.
  • Never accept the first offer—i.e. always negotiate. Prioritize what’s most important to you (salary? start-up? spousal hire? etc.) and make the case for why this request is integral to your ability to be the best teacher-scholar you can be for that institution.

Clearly, this short blog post is not meant to fully summarize recent writings on the state of graduate student and early career academic professionalization. Further reflections and advice on academic professionalization can be found at Inside Higher Ed (see “5 Professional Skills”) and elsewhere, including those by the SHA’s Standing Committees in their blogs.

Thanks to all who answered my call for their professionalization advice. One of the most important reminders from one of these colleagues was how important these friendships are, especially in navigating this career. One friend wrote “I don’t know how to succeed in academia, but I do know how to enjoy it: surround yourself with colleagues and mentors you like and trust.” And another reminded all of us during our conversation, “Be kind—to yourself and to others.”

New Thematic Issue: Challenging Theories of Racism, Diaspora, and Agency in African America

Posted on behalf of William A. White, III and Chris Fennell, guest editors

We are delighted to introduce a new, thematic collection of articles in Historical Archaeology entitled “Challenging Theories of Racism, Diaspora, and Agency in African America.” The studies provide an engaging sample of the diversity of creative approaches to theory and interpretation in African diaspora archaeology. The authors critically examine competing theoretical approaches and apply their perspectives to African-American pasts revealed through evidence in built environments, material culture, embodied experiences, documentary accounts, and archaeological remains. Their focus spans geographies from the far northwest of the United States to the Caribbean, and from urban to rural and island settings across several centuries.

The majority of authors in this thematic issue are individuals from heritage groups that are underrepresented in our community of professionals. They represent an emerging generation of new scholarship by individuals who bring their lived experiences of related heritage and racial dynamics to bear on their analytic sensibilities. The insights of critical race theory promise a bright future for our field with this new wave of experiential and intellectual engagements. Researchers of European-American heritage work to provide contributions as well, engaging in intensive collaborations with members of descendant communities and colleagues who bring such historical sensibilities to the arena of interpretative challenges.

Following the introductory essay, “Navigating Intersections in African Diaspora Archaeology,” by Chris Fennell (open access online: articles in the forthcoming issue include: 

* Where Tradition and Pragmatism Meet: African Diaspora Archaeology at the Crossroads–Anna S. Agbe-Davies

* Materialities of Homeplace–Annelise Morris

* Homesick Blues: Excavating Crooked Intimacies in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Jook Joints–Jamie M. Arjona

* Cruise Ships, Community, and Collective Memory at Millars Plantation, Eleuthera, Bahamas–Whitney Battle-Baptiste

* Locating Marginalized Historical Narratives at Kingsley Plantation–Ayana Omilade Flewellen

* Imagining Conformity: Consumption and Homogeneity in the Postwar African American Suburbs–Paul R. Mullins

* Race and Agency in the Williamsburg Area’s Free African American Population from 1723 to 1830–Rebecca Schumann

* Access Denied: African Americans and Access to End-of-Life Care in Nineteenth-Century Washington, D.C.–Justin Dunnavant

* Writ on the Landscape: Racialization, Whiteness, and River Street–William A. White, III


This is also the first issue of Historical Archaeology published by Springer. You can view the articles here: SHA members can access full text PDFs by logging in to the SHA website ( and navigating to the Historical Archaeology page where you can find a link to the Springer site.

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