Meet a Member: John Littlefield

Over the coming months, we’ll be bringing you 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 (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

An Interview with John Littlefield, PhD student at Texas A&M University (Maritime Archaeology), M.A. from Texas A&M, B.S. from College of Charleston

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

The first “site” I worked on was a not a site at all, but a terrestrial survey in central Turkey, if that counts. I followed that with work at a colonial site, Charles Towne Landing, in South Carolina. Completely different environments, but both equally interesting. The last “site” I worked on was also a survey, of the waters around ancient Troy and Çanakkale, Turkey- again, if that counts. The last specific site was a potential pre-Clovis excavation in a Florida river. I was amazed at the ability to be able to cut beautiful walls in the river bed down to about 13 m. We don’t get the type of substrate to allow fine trowel work in a sea or ocean environment.

Fieldwork or labwork?

This presents a very difficult choice. Since most of my current work in done on underwater sites, I live on, and work from, a boat for weeks or even months at a time. Fieldwork has taken me from the freshwater rivers of Florida to the Mediterranean Sea to excavate Bronze Age material, Hellenistic marble, etc. I obviously love what I get to do during fieldwork. However, I also really like artifact photography and analysis, pXRF analysis of metal artifacts, and the very detailed recording ancient ship remains in the lab also.

If you could have lunch with any archaeologist (past or present) who would it be?

Wow, that is an intriguing question. So many people come to mind, past and present. As a maritime archaeologist, George Bass is a bit of a sage for me. He obviously is of great influence to the field of nautical archaeology and I am very fortunate to get to visit with George on a very regular basis. In fact, I had the opportunity to work and even dive with him at the re-visit excavation of the Bronze Age shipwreck at Cape Gelidonya in 2010. I would add that I would love to have an afternoon with to pick Lewis Binford’s brain, to have a mint julep with Basil Gildersleeve, or chat with Paul Bahn about his Bluffers guide to Archaeology.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

That presumes that I have grown up. As a kid, I wanted to be an Olympian, but as much as I tried, I always seemed to be the second faster distance runner. After high school I moved into a blue collar career, so it took me many years to find my calling as a maritime archaeologist. I left that blue collar job, went back to school, and took a position as a diver at the South Carolina Aquarium. When I stumbled into an anthropology class and discovered archaeology, it did not take long to develop the desire to marry my new found passion with diving to that of archaeology. So if and when I do actually grow up, I would like to continue on this path.

Why are you a member of SHA?

I think it is important to support the institutions in our field. It helps in network development and I like getting up to date archaeological data through the associated journals, websites, and conferences.

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

I joined pretty early- I was still an undergraduate at College of Charleston when I first joined.

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

I first joined in 2006 I believe.

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

Definitely the up-to-date information, particularly about ethics, methods, and practices in the field.