Meet a Member: David Landon

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 (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

An Interview with Dr. David Landon, Associate Director of the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Who influenced your decision to become an archaeologist?

The key influences were the two professors I started working with as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, Diana Crader and Steve Dyson. Diana was a physical anthropologist and zooarchaeologist, and had started working on a consulting project to study the faunal remains from Monticello, which became the project for one of our classes. Steve was sending the students on excavation projects on local historical sites, so got us into fieldwork (the fun part) immediately. Steve was a classicist, but was working on a comparative colonialism volume that had a chapter from Mary Beaudry, so when it came time for graduate school his advice was to go work with her. Basically I just fell in with the wrong crowd! : )

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

One of the first sites was an apothecary shop in Middletown, CT. Great artifacts for a first dig!

What are you currently reading?

You mean besides Game of Thrones, right?

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

The first job I can remember wanting to have was an architect. I went to college thinking I was going to be an international development economist, and ended up with an economics major and an undergraduate honors thesis in archaeology.

Why are you a member of SHA?

SHA is my primary professional organization and it would be hard to imagine not belonging!

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

I think I was  just starting graduate school at Boston University when the SHA conference came to Boston. I missed the conference, but that was the first time I understood that this professional organization existed, and I joined shortly thereafter.

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

Probably closing in on 25 years at this point- yikes!

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

I enjoy the conferences and the collegiality of the organization. I still remember the sensation of first publishing in Historical Archaeology- I was amazed and thrilled to think that something I wrote was being mailed out to so many people I respected. Still a wonderful feeling!

Meet a Member: Paul Avery

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 Paul Avery, Principal Investigator, Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc.

Who influenced your decision to become an archaeologist?

I have had many influences through the years.  The first was a gentleman named Ed Reed, who was the Superintendent of the New Echota State Historic Site in Calhoun, Georgia where I grew up.  He was a family friend and spent a lot of time showing me the place.  My first actual exposure to archaeology was at Jacksonville State University where I did my field school.  It was run by Chris Hill, who was a fine teacher and became a good friend.  He and I spent many days in the lab discussing the science and business of archaeology.  But I would say that the biggest influence on my career was Charles Faulkner at the University of Tennessee.  He was my thesis committee chair and he remains someone that I turn to if I get stuck on something.  And I can’t leave out Pat Garrow, who I have worked with for several years.  He has taught me an amazing amount about the business of archaeology as well as technical aspects.

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

The first site that I worked on was called the Blue Hole Site in Calhoun County, Alabama.  I can’t recall the site number.  It was a Woodland and Mississippian village site located in a pasture next to a deep spring, or blue hole.  That was Jacksonville State’s field school in May, 1989.  Currently, I’m working on a data recovery at the Perry House (40KN275) in Knox County, Tennessee.  This site was the location of a two story log home built in 1799.  It was built by George Perry, who owned as many as 17 slaves at one time.  We are in the process of excavating several cellars that likely mark the locations of slave cabins, the kitchen cellar, two privies, and numerous other features.  The artifact collection is remarkable, with a wide variety of early 19th century decorated ceramics.  It is very exciting!

Fieldwork or labwork?

Fieldwork, any time!

If you could go back in time for only 10 seconds – where, when, and why? 

December 1864 at the Florence Stockade in Florence, South Carolina.  After directing excavations there in 2006, I have been continuing to research the site.  There are many questions that could be answered in that 10 seconds that may never be answered any other way!

Why are you a member of SHA?

Membership in the Society is important for the professional historical archaeologist as it gives you access to information on current projects that just wouldn’t be available any other way.  It connects you with other professionals and allows for an exchange of information that is critical to improving yourself as an archaeologist.

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

I joined as a graduate student.

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

15 years

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

Access to the lessons learned by my peers through the journal is probably the most beneficial aspect of membership.  That and the exchange of ideas that takes place at the conference provide an excellent opportunity to continue learning about the science of archaeology.

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.