Food, Community, and Archaeology in Roxbury, Massachusetts

by Miles Shugar

How did a failed 1970s highway project in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts bring generations of diverse individuals in contact with their city’s roots in the 19th century over jerk chicken and rice?  The answer lies in historical archaeology, which can serve as a focal point for community enrichment in ways that might not seem obvious from the onset. When we uncover new information about the past, we prove the axiom that we never live only in one time. Fieldwork leads to data, and data is interpreted, contextualized, and finally published in academic circles. That often marks the end of archaeology’s journey into contemporary conversation. Sometimes, however, data can be resurrected and take on a new life in the neighborhood where it was recovered.


A busy lunch at Haley House Bakery Cafe. Photo reused with permission from Haley House Bakery Cafe.

In the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, southwest of the downtown core along the centuries-old artery of Washington Street, a humble but powerful bakery cafe is bringing history to the forefront of community enrichment.  Haley House Bakery Cafe is a wing of the non-profit organization called the Haley House, whose members made it their mission for six decades to promote the physical, economic, and social well-being of underprivileged members in the greater Roxbury community. The Cafe is entirely staffed by men and women who have faced significant barriers to employment, such as incarceration or economic hardship, and enthusiastic volunteers from around the greater Boston community. Thanks to lively events programming and a unique partnership with the Roxbury Historical Society, Haley House Bakery Cafe has been able to feature historical programming to its customers, joining sustainable business practices with historical advocacy and public education.


A mural on the wall of the bakery cafe. Photo reused with permission from Haley House Bakery Cafe.

Haley House also serves as a platform for local advocates to communicate their passions to their neighbors through arts and educational programming. Roxbury History Night is a monthly event where local historians give a lecture on topics ranging from the lost beer breweries of Lower Roxbury in the 19th century to the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the neighborhood.  The café is often packed to standing-room capacity when local history is brought back to life with photographs, artifacts, and lively lectures delivered by those most passionate and knowledgeable about it.

In October 2014, as part of Archaeology Month, the Haley House Bakery Café and the Roxbury Historical Society hosted “Roxbury’s Southwest Corridor: Archaeology of Industry and Transportation.” The event featured legendary local archaeologist Beth Bower, the supervising researcher for the massive urban archaeology project from the 1970s known as the Southwest Corridor Project.   In the 1960s, plans were made to construct an eight-lane highway through the heart of some of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, including Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and the South End. In preparation for the highway, entire blocks and neighborhoods were completely demolished and left barren, forcing many to leave behind their homes. Boston’s citizens fought back against the highway, and in 1972 the highway was cancelled. Later in that decade, the strip of land cleared for the highway was repurposed into an urban corridor of parks, and the ground below it was reserved for a new subway line. With the recent inception of the Environmental Protection Act, archaeology took place to determine the extent of and plan for the mitigation of sensitive historic resources affected by the subway line.

Beth Bower and her team of archaeologists uncovered myriad sites and thousands of artifacts from breweries, factories, foundries, and workers’ tenement housing from the 18th-20th centuries. Their work became the foundation for a cultural, social, and industrial history of a thriving area known as the Stoney Brook Valley, named for the old waterway that fed ts tanneries, breweries, and factories.  The Phase II and III excavations there told the story of Roxbury’s emergence as an industrial hub in the 19th century.

That same Roxbury History Night in October 2014 featured me, a recently graduated student of the UMass Boston Historic Archaeology program who had reinterpreted Beth’s work for my Masters’ thesis. Together, Beth and I talked about the history of the movement to stop the Southwest Corridor Highway, the fieldwork that produced the rich history of the Stoney Brook Valley that we enjoy today, and the interpretation of a particular site from her work–the Metropolitan Horse Railroad Company.


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Photo of some of the first electrified streetcars in Boston.  Reprinted with permission of author.

The Metropolitan Horse Railroad Company site was first a horsecar and then an electric streetcar station during the heyday of the trolley in greater Boston from approximately 1850 to 1920. Halfway through its life, engineers innovated powering streetcars with electrified lines, and from 1891 to 1893 nearly all of the horses and horsecar railway materials at the station  were sold to the public at auction. By 1895, the complex at large had transitioned from a bustling horsecar hub to a rather quiet electrified station. The horse railroad buildings were demolished around 1925 with the advent of the automobile, and over top of it was built an auto repair garage. My work introduced Beth’s archaeological work to new documentary sources to suggest that, contrary to popular narrative,  horses were still employed at the station after its streetcar lines were electrified. Instead of pulling the actual streetcars, horses now probably served as a power source for the exciting leisure activity of sleigh riding, or for the ongoing task of track upkeep and repair.

When Beth and I had concluded our presentation, the audience was eager to ask questions and initiate a lengthy discussion of old Roxbury.  Some audience members even remembered elements of the old Roxbury landscape and shared how they had seen their neighborhood undergo many substantial changes.  Many of the questions centered  on the actual technology of the horse railroad and later electric trolley or on the lives of the horses during the height of the Metropolitan Horse Railroad Company.  These types of questions about the structure and operation of mass transit are especially valuable in Boston today as we continue to struggle with an aging public transportation system recently crippled by historic snowfall. The layout of Boston’s early transit lines influenced the growth and development of Boston’s neighborhoods, including Roxbury. Many of the same lines that were laid in the 19th century are still used by Boston commuters today, and they still influence who has access to Boston’s economic opportunities.


    Author’s photo of the detail of a riveted leather horse collar worn by draught horses of the Metropolitan Railroad Company recovered by Beth Bower’s team

Reexamining and recontextualizing previously excavated archaeological sites is a valuable practice not only for archaeologists, but for the communities in which archaeologists work. The collaboration between local Boston archaeologists, the Roxbury Historical Society, and the Haley House Bakery Cafe is a successful example of how these studies can take on new life. The Haley House is an important  venue that provides a hub and a meeting place for a growing and changing community. Its location within the community of Roxbury and its mission to employ outreach and teach demonstrates that archaeology can be presented to the public at a venue outside the walls of a university where a diverse and community-conscious audience can learn about a part of their neighborhood’s past. These gatherings serve not only to enrich and educate our neighbors but also to strengthen archaeological study though first hand knowledge and vibrant discussion around a space that has been home to some for generations.

Where else is archaeology shared with diverse communities in unique venues?


Follow Haley House Bakery Cafe on Twitter

Why programs like “Battlefield Recovery” show that archeologists’ work with the media is far from done

Adding to our ongoing conversation about these issues, with perspectives from Europe and the US, Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki) and Joe Wilson (Fairfield University) have written the following reflection about archaeological intersections with mass media. I would like to share it with SHA members here. (Carol McDavid).

By Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki) and Joseph A.P. Wilson (Fairfield University)

In March 2014, social media was alight with calls to axe the National Geographic show “Nazi War Diggers”. The collective online efforts of archeologists, historians and others led to the program being canceled before it was broadcast. In January 2016 we experienced déjà vu, as the UK’s Channel 5 aired “Battlefield Recovery”, the same program renamed and (possibly) re-edited. Twitter comments – not only from archeologists – have been largely negative, and the viewing figures have apparently plummeted with each episode. However, the show is also a reminder of why archeologists must continue to engage with the media and the wider public, and that we are not the only interest group looking to influence television programming with regards to cultural heritage and history.

It is always challenging for archeologists to decide how to respond requests for information to media companies. Many have been frustrated at seeing recommendations ignored, or at what seemed like a small enquiry ballooning into hours, even days, of work. One of us (Thomas) was approached – as were others – by ClearStory, the production company behind “Battlefield Recovery”. Thomas gave advice related to her area of specialism (the relationship between hobbyist metal detecting and archaeology), as well as recommending contact with specialists for other aspects of their plans. Subsequently she reflected on her ultimately negative experiences in the European Journal of Archaeology, writing to an academic audience, and noting how little control academic consultees have over a final product.

The show itself follows a group of three metal detecting enthusiasts and a militaria dealer, as they dig at various sites of World War II’s Eastern Front. Inspired by the American metal detecting series “Diggers”, the show brings this formula to Europe – incorporating WWII in a nod to war history’s enduring popularity on television. However, among the many concerns that archaeologists and others have with the show, the handling of human remains is particularly problematic, not only due to the absence of scientific procedure but also raising serious compassionate concerns. It is inevitable that the bones uncovered on camera are someone’s relatives. Although there are voluntary groups that seek and repatriate fallen soldiers (for example in Russia and Latvia), exhuming remains on film without forensic specialist supervision is deeply troubling. This is before we consider the safety risk of encountering unexploded ordnance.

Recently, the Society for American Archeology discussed the challenges of presenting archeology within reality TV. They noted that, while programs such as “Diggers” are still problematic, sustained dialogue with the National Geographic Channel has led to improvements, and may bring more in the future (read about Montpelier’s successful collaboration with the show). On the Society of Historical Archaeology’s blog, archeologist Charles Ewen noted regarding National Geographic Channel’s 2014 cancellation of “Nazi War Diggers”: “Is this only a temporary reprieve till the next outrageous show comes along? Will this be a rolling battle against edutainment with no end in sight? Perhaps not, but we are going to have to be willing to work with the networks.” Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Corp’s acquisition of National Geographic in November 2015 resulted in significant senior staff layoffs. Whether National Geographic preserves its reputation will likely depend on financial calculus. Communications professor W Joseph Campbell noted that Fox have a choice. They could move National Geographic toward greater professional respectability as they did with the Wall Street Journal, or they could move it “down-market”, as they did with the New York Sun and News of the World. Time will tell which path they choose. Whatever happens though, archeologists wanting to engage with a broader audience must work in venues such as these, or risk being resigned to obscurity in the echo chamber of the ivory tower.

Also in November 2015, Buzzfeed unearthed video footage from a 1998 university commencement speech where neurosurgeon-turned-Republican-presidential-hopeful Ben Carson voiced opinions on Egyptology. Dr. Carson suggested that biblical patriarch Joseph constructed the pyramids as grain-storage devices. Archeologists and Egyptian officials bemusedly dismissed his claims. Carson is not an archeologist, and his pet theory is based more on his religious views than empirical evidence. But much of the conversation has strayed toward questioning his fundamental competence, for example when the New York Post’s headline described Carson’s idiosyncratic view as a “crazy theory”. While it is appropriate for professional archaeologists to cite credible evidence when faced with quirky folk-theories about funerary monuments, online vitriol has arguably been counterproductive. For non-archeologists it can be challenging to differentiate between plausible and implausible theories. Interpreting archeological data can be extremely subtle on the best of days; those who fail to grasp nuanced arguments should not be judged too harshly. The scorn heaped upon Carson for his opinions appears (at least initially) to have strengthened his position among those who could carry him to a presidential nomination. Pejorative indictments of Carson’s odd assertions could be extrapolated to indict the ignorance of the public at large, which could encourage further entrenchment of popular anti-intellectualism. As the Washington Post put it: “Critics who focus on Carson’s pyramid quote miss that he called for better science education in the same speech, or that his comments about God, the Big Bang and evolution actually reflect that of most Americans, if not scientists”.

As archeologists, we should respect our audiences and remember that we are not the only interest group claiming knowledge, however inaccurate other interpretations might turn out to be. Nor should we “punch down”, attacking less well-educated opponents and following the playbook of culture wars. With the recent annihilation of Palmyra and the murder of an esteemed Syrian archeologist (for refusing to provide loot to Daesh), you could do better than see media turf wars as the discipline’s raison d’etre. “Battlefield Recovery” is not what any archeologist would want to see broadcast. The History Channel dropped plans to broadcast the program in New Zealand and Australia in light of critical feedback. However, the fact that both Channel 5 and ClearStory believe that it is fit for viewing, should be a rally call to archeologists to continue engaging with the media, and to do so with clear and accessible messages. We must remember that we are not the only voices out there. The “Battlefield Recovery” presenters doubtless regard themselves as experts of a different kind. Adopting a dismissive tone towards non-archeologists is tempting, but does not always help. The last thing we need is to appear is as elitists who do not want anyone else to encounter heritage. That is not our raison d’etre. Encountering heritage in an informed, respectful and scientifically sound manner, is.

Meet a Member: Florie Bugarin

membershipHere’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen ( or Kim Pyszka (

Dr. Florie Bugarin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Howard University and currently serves on the 2016 SHA Conference Organizing Committee.

What’s the most interesting artifact you’ve ever found? At Fort Willshire in South Africa, I found over 100 cattle horn cores covered and intertwined with thousands of glass seed beads.

Who influenced your decision to become an archaeologist? Jim Deetz.  He was my undergraduate professor at U.C. Berkeley.  He made archaeology sound fun and exciting, although he suggested that I become an ethnographer rather than an archaeologist.  He said that the world needed better ethnographies that are related to archaeology. After my initial decision, Peter Schmidt and Kathy Deagan further influenced the kind of historical archaeologist that I have become.

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)? The first site that I worked on was Flowerdew Hundred under Jim Deetz.  I was an undergraduate student, and this was my first field school. I am currently working on collections from Nicodemus, Kansas and James Island, The Gambia, but the last site that I dug was the Best Farm Slave Village on the Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland.  I was working with Joy Beasley of the National Park Service and my colleague at Howard, Eleanor King.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  When I was very young, I wanted to be an actress, model, artist or dancer.  When I first started college, I wanted to be a mathematician or a medical doctor.  When I met Jim Deetz, I wanted to be an archaeologist.

Why are you a member of SHA? I identify myself as a historical archaeologist.  Also, when I first started, it seemed like an extended family.  Many people knew each other, and I wanted to be a part of that.  Now, it has grown so much.  Although I see many new faces, I still think of the SHA as it was back then…like a family.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA? My first year in graduate school.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)? 1992-2014, approximately 20 years. There were a few years off and on when I wasn’t able to attend the meetings.

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you? The collection of articles on the questions that count in historical archaeology: Historical Archaeology, vol. 22, no. 1 (1988)(Read this for free on the SHA Publications Explorer)

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial? Reconnecting each year with people in my field of interest.  It is also a quick way to keep up with the latest developments in historical archaeology, and a good way to generate new ideas.  

Our Challenges and Mission

by Joe Joseph, SHA President

I am two weeks into my term as SHA President and find in my in-box a bill in the Florida legislature that would allow anyone to obtain an archaeological permit to excavate and possess (and sell) artifacts from Florida state waters for a fee of $100 ; a bill in Wisconsin to allow a mining company to mine an American Indian effigy mound without regard for the presence human remains, due to its economic needs (; and in the UK the appearance of “Battlefield Recovery,” a resurrection of the “Nazi War Diggers” program that National Geographic created but pulled following archaeological outcry over the cavalier treatment of human remains ( The title has changed, but little else, certainly not the disregard for history and archaeology.

As I scroll through the SHA blog I find Charlie Ewen’s post of April 10, 2014, on National Geographic’s pulling of the Nazi War Diggers program, and his prophetic question – “So, mission accomplished. Or was it?” 

Now we know the answer.

I view these three actions as symptoms of a larger illness: a shift that we are seeing in politics and society that places an emphasis on the individual over community, on personal and corporate interests over the common good.

As historical archaeologists, we recognize the place of the collective, the role of community, the foundation of culture that supports the lives that individuals live. Unfortunately, that foundation is not widely acknowledged in a current society that rails against government without considering the personal consequences of its dismantling, and that emphasizes personal achievement to the extent that the inequity between the disenfranchised and the elite is at historic levels.

As I write letters I am reminded that we as archaeologists have an opportunity and responsibility to join in the conversation. The sites that we excavate speak to the human experience, writ large, where every life has meaning in telling the story of the past. History was once the possession and product of the elite. Historical archaeology is shared by all. The artifacts we encounter tell not only the story of global contact and interchange, but also of the reworking and repositioning of objects to reflect different cosmologies and cultures. And our jobs themselves are work done for the common good, not coin and currency, as all of us who are engaged in historical archaeology do so because we share in a need to bring the full picture of the past into present conversation, to write histories that would otherwise be unwritten.

Each of us has a role to play in this effort. Use social media and other avenues to oppose legislation and media that diminishes our sites and heritage. Reach out to your political representatives to let them know what you do and the importance of your work. But most importantly, use the sites and artifacts in your life and work to reach out to the public, to remind them that we are all part of a human continuum, that our appreciation of the past grounds us in the present, and that respect for the heritage of all provides us with the framework to build a better future.

The answer to Charlie’s question, quite simply, is that our mission is never done. It is why we do what we do.

Below, you will find the letters that have been drafted and sent regarding the Florida House Bill 803 and in support of our colleagues at the European Archaeological Association and Society for Post Medieval Archaeology regarding the Nazi War Diggers television show, on behalf of the SHA membership:

Representative Clay Ingram, Florida State Legislature

Society for Post Medieval Archaeology

European Archaeological Association

Share Your #SHAStories at #SHA2016 to be part of the 50th Anniversary!

HistoryDid you know the SHA is turning 50 in January 2017? In anticipation of the big anniversary, the History Committee wants to hear your SHA stories. At this year’s conference in Washington D.C., committee members will be set up and ready to record your SHA stories in the President’s Board Room (East Lobby) on Thursday from 1:00 to 5:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Please stop by and spend a few minutes sharing your SHA story.

Not sure what you would say? Don’t think you have anything meaningful to share? No worries! Just answer one or more of the following questions and you’ll be on your way!

  • When did you join the SHA?
  • Why did you join?
  • What was the first SHA conference you attended?
  • What is your favorite memory of a SHA conference?
  • Why do you like the SHA?
  • What difference has the SHA made in your career?
  • And any other SHA story you want to share!

The best stories will be compiled into a special presentation and featured at the 50th anniversary conference in January 2017. The more stories we record, the more meaningful the birthday bash will be! So please stop by the President’s Board Room and spend a few moments recording your stories. We want to hear from everyone! #SHAStories


#SHA2016: Using Social Media at this Year’s SHA Conference!

SHA2016-logo3-250x300Over the past few years, SHA has built an online presence through the use of social media, and it began within the conference committee. With the addition of the blog, and the society’s developing use of Twitter and Facebook, we want to encourage you all to incorporate social media into your conference experience in Washington, DC. Since 2012, we’ve been using social media at our conferences, to great success particularly in the past few years. They are a great way to improve your conference experience, while also demonstrating the value of the SHA to archaeology and scholars of the past. 

Before the Conference Using social media before the conference provides a number of opportunities to make your experience in Washington D.C. more enjoyable. Here’s some suggestions:

  1. Catch Up with What’s Happening: We have a Facebook Page, a Twitter Account, and official Twitter Hashtag.  Follow and Like Us, and read up on what to expect at the conference!
  2. Start Communicating: Twitter is a great way to meet other archaeologists. See who is tweeting with the #SHA2016 tag, and start conversations with them!
  3. Advertise your session by blogging and posting: Do you have a blog? Use it to share your session, the reasons why it is important, where and what time it’s being held. Post it on our Facebook wall and send a tweet with #SHA2016 and @SHA_org mentioned, and we’ll share it with our members!
  4. Share Your Trip: Let us know what’s happening on your trip to Washington D.C. Did you find a good travel deal? Need someone to share a ride with from the airport? Delayed? Lost? Send a tweet with the #SHA2016 tag and see if someone can lend a hand.

At the Conference Once you arrive in D.C., use @SHA_org and our Facebook page to communicate with the conference committee; we’ll be using it to communicate with you. Here are some things we’ll be using social media for: 

What we’ll be doing

  1. Announcing special events: We’ll send out reminders about events including the awards banquet, student reception and so on, so you don’t miss anything! We’ll also live-tweet and post from the Business Meeting, so those of you leaving early on Saturday can follow along from the train.
  2. Special Announcements: If something is relocated, delayed, or cancelled, we will announce this via social media.
  3. Answering Questions: Send your questions to @SHA_org or the Facebook page
  4. RTing and RePosting: We’ll repost on Facebook and ReTweet on Twitter the things you share on the #SHA2016 hashtag. If you’ve taken a great picture, made an interesting comment in a session, or provided some good information, we want to make sure our followers see it!

What you can do

  1. Add your Twitter Handle to your name tag: Just find a spot and write it on there! People who are on twitter will know what it is and mention it!!
  2. Post YOUR Special Announcements: Has something happened in your session that is delaying things? Have you found a great restaurant or coffee shop you want to share? Spotted your book in the book room? Post these items and we’ll repost them so others can see them.
  3. Ask Questions: Use Twitter and Facebook to ask questions about the conference. Can’t find a room? Can’t remember what time the Awards Banquet is? Send a tweet to @SHA_org or post on the Facebook wall and we’ll get back to you.
  4. Take Pictures: we’d love to see and share your pictures from the conference, particularly from the special event.

In A Session

Twitter can be particularly useful when you’re in a session. It provides a backchannel of commentary and discussion, so people who couldn’t attend the session or conference can still follow along. It also gives presenters and chairs a chance to get some feedback on their presentation, and to communicate with the audience – leading to interactions and relationships that might not have occurred otherwise. Here are some tips to maximize the effectiveness, and civility, of Twitter. You can find more hints and tips here

For Session organizers

  1. Use a Hashtag: It’s OK with us if you give your session its own hashtag; this way, it is clear what tweets belong to what section. We STRONGLY advise that you also use the #SHA2016 hashtag, so that people following it will see your session as well. Otherwise, it may not be noticed. So, pick something short to save characters!
  2. Make it Known: Make sure all your presenters know about the hashtag, and that you’d like to use social media during the session. Make sure that the audience knows as well; tell them as you introduce the session. Also, encourage your presenters to include their own Twitter name and the session hashtag on their introduction slide, so that people can use it during their presentation.

For Presenters

  1. Be Loud: include your Twitter name on your presentation slides, and say something in your introduction about how you’d like to hear feedback on Twitter. If you DON’T want anyone to broadcast your session, make the request at the beginning of your presentation.
  2. Respond: Be sure to respond to the comments that you get, and build relationships!
  3. Pay it Forward: Be an active tweeter during the session for your fellow presenters.
  4. I want my paper off the Internet: Speak up! Let everyone before your paper know that you’d like it not to be tweeted!

For the audience

  1. Be Respectful: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t say to a presenter’s face; Twitter is, in general, a friendly place. Constructive criticism is certainly welcome, but remember you only have 140 characters. It’s probably best to send the presenter a private message saying you’d love to chat about their presentation rather than publicly dig into them. If a presenter requests silence on social media for their presentation, respect it and give your thumbs a rest.
  2. Introduce your Speaker: It’s courteous to send a tweet out introducing the presenter and their paper topic before starting to tweet their presentation: this gives those following some context.
  3. Cite: Use the presenter’s Twitter name, surname, or initials in all the following tweets so that their ideas are connected to them. Use quotes if you’re directly quoting someone from their presentation, and be sure to include their name. Remember: these presentations are still the presenter’s intellectual property, so treat it respectfully!

After the Conference Just because a conference is over, it doesn’t mean the work is done! The same goes for social media; here’s how you can round out your conference experience:

  1. Write a Summary: Use a blog or Storify to give other archaeologists a glimpse into your experience, session or paper, and see what they missed. This also allows us to gather feedback about the conference so we can make it better next year! Be sure to post it on Twitter, use the #SHA2016 tag, and post on our Facebook page so others can see it!
  2. Post your Paper: Using a blog or to post your paper is a great way to make it available to everyone. Or you could make a video; simply record yourself talking over your slides and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo (read more about this here). Then, share it with us!
  3. Build your Networks: Build longer lasting relationships by looking up the people you’ve met at the conference on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (oh, we have a LinkedIn Group, too, just for SHA members). If you find them, send them a message saying how nice it was to see them!


Equity (Issues) for All, Historical Archaeology as a Profession in the 21st Century

By Lewis Jones and Ashley Morton

Have you ever encountered workplace climate so chilly you thought you’d get frost bitten? No, we aren’t talking health and safety of field archaeology, though that’s a worthy topic of discussion… Of course, we mean workplace climate in the figurative sense. For the past three years Ashley Morton, M.A., RPA (Fort Walla Walla Museum, Archaeology Program Manager) and Lewis Jones, M.A. (Indiana University, PhD Candidate) have chaired a session at the SHA Annual Conference entitled, “Equity (Issues) for All, Historical Archaeology as a Profession in the 21st Century.” The panel is formulated with the direct intent of considering issues of equity and inclusivity within the field of archaeology and the profession of anthropology. With a specific focus on how the membership of the Society for Historical Archaeology, our professional organization, can facilitate and engage in helping its members circumnavigate the many pitfalls and obstacles; that have traditionally been a limit to participation and practice of our chosen profession. At the past three annual SHA conferences—beginning with Leicester (2013), Quebec City (2014), and most recently Seattle (2015)—panelists were invited to speak to audience issues of concern and provide some guidance to undergraduates, graduate students, PhD candidates, and early career professionals on how they may have handled circumstances within their own careers.

In the first year, the panel featured Drs. Teresita Majewski (President of SHA in 1999 and VP of Operations at Statistical Research Inc.), Jon Pragnell (President of the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology in 2013 and Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland), Alasdair Brooks (Editor of the SHA Newsletter and journal of Post-Medieval Archaeology), and Jane Webster (Senior Lecturer and Head of Archaeology at Newcastle University). Panelists participating in our second year included William A. White (University of Arizona, PhD. Candidate), Drs. Jamie C. Brandon (Associate Editor for Historical Archaeology, Archaeologist with Arkansas Archaeological Survey and faculty member with University of Arkansas) and Karri S. Barile (President at Dovetail Cultural Resource Group), and the return of Dr. Alasdair Brooks.

Featured in the YouTube recording, participants to this recent, 3rd, panel were Dr. Benjamin A. Ford (Board Member to SHA and Associate Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Kelly Bush (President of Equinox Research & Consulting), Mary Rossi (Program Director for APT-Applied Preservation Technologies) and the return of William A. White.




In these discussions, the subject of equity as it relates to class, both in the United States and abroad, focused on the reality that class may not manifest in the same way nationally versus internationally. We have considered how gender, age, race, ethnicity, socio-economics, sexism, generational practices, and sexuality are all issues that can make it harder for someone who is not traditionally seen as a practitioner of our profession and therefore can be excluded from consideration as a potential colleague. The idea for these panels originated from discussions Ashley and Lewis had together and with other colleagues concerning what they had seen and experienced in becoming professional anthropologists and historical archaeologists. For Ashley, her background primarily working in Cultural Resources Management (CRM), experienced both gender and age-based issues. A wider concern for Ashley was that conflict management was by-and-large addressed within a formal Human Resources (HR) option and desired more informal guidance to handle situations either before it reached the need of HR or that were less serious than reporting to HR. For Lewis, the concern relates to his entry in the PhD program and the lack of diversity he saw within his own department. That is not to say that it does not have diversity but that it is very targeted. Within the department and graduate program, there was only one faculty member of African descent and a few female students of African descent. He was the only African-Descendant Male and there were only two or three other male students who represented underrepresented groups.

Realizing that there may be others who were experiencing or knew someone who was experiencing similar issues we thought it might be a great idea to have a panel in which we could bring together all the different people who might be experiencing these issues, who may have already navigated through some of these issues, and therefore could provide some guidance on what they did to move forward in their careers; allowing for a frank and open discussion. With many of the issues of inclusivity that are being discussed in higher education it is appropriate that we also have ongoing discussions on how we as a profession and as professionals can work together to foster a more equitable and inclusive profession versus a profession that for most of its history being more exclusive based on class, socio-economics, gender, ethnicity and race. This panel provides one such avenue for these discussions, without pressure and also in a format that allows everyone to be comfortable while engaging in an open dialogue with those who are, and will be their colleagues and peers in the years to come.

This upcoming panel in D.C., we look to spotlight the glass ceiling we’ve encountered; talking with panelists Drs. Barbara Little (National Parks Service, Program Manager) and Alexandra Jones (Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Archaeology in the Community), Mandy Ranslow (Archaeologist with Connecticut Department of Transportation), and the return of William A. White. We hope you’ll bring questions and concerns of any topic however so please join us for a dynamic and engaging conversation!

Credits: The YouTube video was recorded by Doug Rocks-Macqueen (blog, Doug’s Archaeology).

#SHA2016 Conference Blog: Year in Review

Good morning SHA members!SHA2016-logo3-250x300

#SHA2016 is next week (!) and we are all looking forward to seeing you in D.C.!  Please contact the SHA staff at if you have additional questions about your #SHA2016 Conference registration. Otherwise, the final #SHA2016 Conference program is now posted

Remember: Look for and use #SHA2016 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. during the Conference next week!

In true end-of-the-year fashion, this blog post is dedicated to all of the #SHA2016 Conference blog posts we have posted over the course of 2015.  In an effort to get SHA members excited about #SHA2016, we have posted about archaeology in and around the D.C. area this year. Please click on the links below, to review our year!   


Jan 12, 2015 Please join us for #SHA2016!

Jan 26, 2015 Who Digs in D.C.?

March 07, 2015 Historical Archaeology at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

March 09, 2015 Archaeology on a Shoe-String in the District of Columbia: An Introduction to the DC Historic Preservation Office

April 07, 2015 Alexandria Archaeology: The City of Alexandria’s Archaeological Protection Code turns 25!

April 21, 2015 Maryland Historical Trust and the “Archeological Synthesis” Project

 May 18, 2015 Reflections on Archaeology in the District of Columbia

 June 01, 2015 Archaeology in the Community: Stepping up and Reaching out

 June 15, 2015 5 Archaeological Things to See and Do in Washington D.C.

June 29, 2015 7 Archaeological Things to See and Do in Washington D.C.

July 13, 2015 #SHA2016 Conference: Let’s Trend from the Field!

July 28, 2015 #SHA2016: D.C. participates in #dayofarch!

Aug 24, 2015 #SHA2016 Ethics Bowl: Let’s Get Ethical!

Nov 02, 2015 Spotlight on #SHA2016 Workshops

Nov 16, 2015 #SHA2016: Tips for Getting Around D.C.

Nov 30, 2015 #SHA2016 Tips for Your Stay in D.C.

In addition, the Society for American Archaeology PEC Network of State Organizers has been featuring public archaeology in each state on their Facebook page.  D.C. was recently featured during the week of November 22-27, 2015. We have provided the same links that SAA provided, below. Check them out!


Nov 22, 2015


When and Where: Where do you find archaeology in a big city like Washington, DC?

D.C. is home base to many of our biggest archaeology and historic preservation organizations. Here is information on the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers


Nov 23, 2015


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an important institution committed to bringing Native voices to what the museum writes and presents. They care for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media. Their education page is pretty fantastic! View their online collections, play “Infinity of National Culture Quest,” and find resources on resources for schools. 

The National Park Services NCR Regional Archeology Program in D.C. has created a fabulous website to for those wanting to learn about excavations, preservation, and the management of archaeological resources in the D.C. area. There are many great resources for kids!


Nov 24, 2015


Do you know who Yarrow Mamout is?

Archaeologists are learning about Mamout, a freed slave and Muslim who was taken from Africa in 1752 and sold into slavery. Check out the Washington Post article, here!

A wonderful example of community and archaeology in D.C. “So what we are doing today is a most important claiming of memory: That our identity will not be shaken . . . that we have survived slavery.” Check out the Washington Post article, here!


Nov 25, 2015


Mark your calendars for April! The NPS-NACE and the DC HPO will partner again to offer hands-on archaeology activities and mock digs on Sunday April 17, 2016, at the Anacostia River Festival.

The DC HPO also gets involved in the Day of Archaeology Festival. Here is some coverage from this past July.


Nov 26, 2015


Washington Underground: Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC. Here’s a great resource that was created in 2003 by the Center for Heritage Resource Studies at the University of Maryland – a little ahead of their time! Even after 13 years, archaeology is timeless! And this is a great template on how to create other versions of archaeology walking tours in your community.

WAMU (American University Radio) program on the Yarrow Mamout project.

Keep up with Archaeology in the Community through their blog!

A simple search for “archaeology” on the Smithsonian’s Education website brings up 19 archaeology-based lessons for classroom teachers!


Nov 27, 2015


The NPS NACE has YouTube features of the Urban Archaeology Corps. This video is just one of many!

Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project

Archaeology in the Community is available on Facebook by clicking the tag, and their also on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

National Trust for Historic Preservation

NPS: Heritage and Historic Preservation


Remember: Look for and use #SHA2016 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. during the Conference next week!

Happy New Year and see you next week,

#SHA2016 Social Media Liaisons

Meet a Member: Alasdair Brooks

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen ( or Kim Pyszka ( An Interview with Dr. Alasdair Brooks, editor of both the SHA Newsletter and the journal Post-Medieval Archaeology, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leicester.

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

My first site was the long-running field school at St. Mary’s City in Maryland, which most readers will recognise as the 17th-century colonial capital of Maryland.  My most recent site (see the photograph!) was a mud-brick village in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bat, in the mountains of the Sultanate of Oman; the village had been abandoned in the 20th century, and is currently the site of an ongoing research program based at the University of Leicester.  In-between, I’ve also worked in my native UK, Jamaica, Australia, and Venezuela.  I get around; you know how it is.

Fieldwork or labwork?

Labwork – not quite always and forever, but fairly close. While Ivor Noel Hume might have once infamously argued (albeit more than 40 years ago) that women were ideally suited to ‘the potshed’, there are a few men who gravitate in that direction as well. I think I last wielded a trowel in anger while working at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest in the mid 1990s; even then I was the Lab Supervisor, but I did occasionally help out in the field.  I do a fair amount of artifact processing in field labs (ranging from an abandoned church in Australia through to a mansion belonging to the national heritage body in Oman), but I haven’t been involved in physical excavation for some 20 years.

What are you currently reading?

Moby Dick. I love chapter 89…. “Is it not a saying in every one’s mouth, Possession is half of the law: that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession? But often possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews and souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is the whole of the law? What to the rapacious landlord is the widow’s last mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder undetected villain’s marble mansion with a door- plate for a waif; what is that but a Fast-Fish? What is the ruinous discount which Mordecai, the broker, gets from poor Woebegone, the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone’s family from starvation; what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish? What is the archbishop of Savesoul’s income of lb. 100,000 seized from the scant bread and cheese of hundreds of thousands of broken- backed laborers (all sure of heaven without any of Savesoul’s help) what is that globular 100,000 but a Fast-Fish? What are the Duke of Dunder’s hereditary towns and hamlets but Fast-Fish? What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother Jonathan, is Texas but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these, is not Possession the whole of the law? But if the doctrine of Fast-Fish be pretty generally applicable, the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more widely so. That is internationally and universally applicable. What was America in 1492 but a loose-fish, in which Columbus struck the Spanish standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress? What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India to England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All Loose-Fish. What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men’s minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?”

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Up until I was about 13 or 14, I had my heart set on becoming a palaeontologist, likely the residual result of a fairly standard male childhood fascination with dinosaurs.  I can almost precisely pinpoint the precise moment when, walking home from school after soccer practice, I realised that maybe I wasn’t too keen on the biology side, but I was really, really interested in history.  So I think on some level I simply combined the digging things up aspect of palaeontology with the interest in history to decide more or less on the spot that archaeology was the way forward; I stuck with that decision even though I wouldn’t actually get any practical experience until my field school after my second year of university.  To the chagrin of some of my college professors I never really considered myself an anthropologist, though (sorry, Julie!), due to a combination of my British background, the core teenage interest in history rather than anthropology, and sheer intellectual stubbornness.

Why are you a member of SHA?

Originally, like many people straight out of college, because I sort of vaguely felt I should.  As my career developed, it was a combination of the sense of professional community, the networking opportunities, and a perhaps wholly misplaced sense of obligation about encourage SHA – sometimes willingly, sometimes not – to engage more consistently with historical archaeology outside of North America.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

Straight out of college; I joined right after graduating in 1990.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

Erm…  25 years now, or thereabouts.  I think I failed to renew once in the early 1990s, but that one year aside I’ve been a member continuously since 1990.

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

If ‘most influential’ equates to ‘most cited’, then it’s undoubtedly George Miller’s 1991 revised CC Index article (pdf), and Patricia Samford’s 1997 transfer print dating article (pdf).  I’ve spent large parts of my career nibbling around the edges of George’s seminal work, and arguing why it doesn’t always apply outside of the United States, but I’m also very conscious that I’ll likely never produce anything of my own that’s so monumentally influential and important within my own little corner of the discipline (ed. note: both of these articles are available for free in our SHA Publications Explorer!!).

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

The conferences, probably – and the personal and professional networking opportunities presented by the conferences.  I always used to claim that I hate networking, and then at some point around the turn of the millennium I realised that all my social interactions and friendships at the conference were actually networking.  The importance of meeting colleagues in person can’t really be underestimated – likewise the importance of regularly circulating the conference both inside and occasionally outside North America to increase those networking opportunities for as many people as possible. Have I mentioned that I’m a really strong supporter of taking the 2021 SHA conference to Lisbon, Portugal? Trust me, you’ll love it.  

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