4. What is Archaeological Anthropology?


April 15, 2024


Listen to Anthro.mp

What is Archaeology? Featuring UMass Amherst Professor Dr. Haeden Stewart

In this episode, we introduce one of the 4 fields of Anthropology, Archaeology! We will hear from Dr. Stewart as he goes a little more in depth about the field and his research!



Dr. Haeden Stewart’s Website: https://www.haedenstewart.com/

Dr. Haeden Stewart’s CV: https://www.umass.edu/anthro/sites/default/files/CV%20Stewart.pdf


Amber: Hello friends and welcome to anthro.mp3. We’re a group of University of Massachusetts Amherst students who are passionate about anthropology and want to share this love with as great an audience as possible. Hence, this podcast! This podcast is part of a larger intercollegiate collaboration for outreach and education in anthropology. AnthroHub is a website full of all things anthro, but in fun and creative formats. Make sure to check it out to look at some incredible blog posts and creative works made by students from not only UMass Amherst, but also Sage Russell University and SUNY Albany as well. My name is Amber and I’ll be one of your hosts for today’s episode.

Claire: Hi, my name is Claire and I will be your other host for today. So, archaeology is the subfield we’re focusing on in today’s episode. It’s a fascinating and multifaceted field that combines scientific and historical approaches to study the material remains of past human life and activities. This includes everything from ancient artifacts, architecture, and biofacts to cultural landscapes. This discipline is seen as both a social science and a branch of the humanities, offering insights into both prehistoric and historic periods. One of the key roles of archaeologists is to place material remains in historical contexts with the goal to enhance our understanding of the past. This often involves collaborative work with experts from other fields such as botanists, zoologists, biologists, and geologists, especially when studying artifacts in their environmental settings.

Claire: Techniques like radioactive carbon dating have revolutionized archaeological chronology and are just one example of the many scientific methods employed in the field.

Amber: Archaeology has several specialized subfields, each focusing on different aspects of human history and activities. For instance, ethnoarchaeologists study contemporary societies to understand past tool usage, while environmental archaeologists investigate how ancient environmental conditions influenced human societies. Experimental archaeologists recreate ancient techniques and processes, like recreating tools to see how they were made in the past, for example. Archaeological sites and discoveries often reveal fascinating aspects of human history. Archaeologists start their work with specific questions that they ask, then they gather evidence through field work, and then they proceed with lab analysis. They often find things like pottery as a common artifact, which provides crucial clues to past cultures. The process of finding, excavating, and analyzing archaeological sites is one that is very meticulous and that requires a lot of careful planning and detailed research. The preservation of findings and detailed record keeping are essential as each excavation permanently alters the site. Lab analysis plays a critical role in piecing together the history and context of the discoveries that were made by archeologists.

Amber: Archeology offers a unique window into the past, revealing the complexity and diversity of human history through the study of material remains. Its contributions to our understanding of human cultures and societies are invaluable. Combining many rigorous scientific methods with historical analysis in order to uncover stories from our ancestors.

Claire: So today we’re going to be including an exclusive interview with UMass professor Dr. Hayden Stewart about archaeological anthropology and his specialized research within the subject. So let’s get right into that.

[Transition Music]

Claire: Hi everyone. Today we’re going to be interviewing a professor of archaeology here at UMass, named Dr. Stewart. Uh, how are you?

Dr. Stewart: I’m good. Uh, thanks for having me.

Claire: Yeah, of course. Thank you. Thank you for coming. We’re really excited about this interview. Uh, so just to get right into it, uh, I’d love to know how exactly you got into anthropology just as a field.

Dr. Stewart: That’s a good question. I mean, I loved archaeology, was interested in doing archaeology far before I ever even knew what anthropology was. Uh, so I was into Classical, you were talking about Classical archaeology. I was reading Classical archaeology books. I was reading like books about Titanic, like underwater excavations of the Titanic when I was like 10 or 11 and that’s when I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist. And went to undergrad. I didn’t actually do much anthropology. You could just focus entirely on archaeology. And so I went and started doing some archaeology projects. And then the sort of, the ideas of anthropology became more interesting to me. So I was, I fell in love with the method of archaeology. And then I sort of became interested in the broader discipline of anthropology and sort of chose that as a, where to bring, where to bring my love of archaeology as opposed to doing more Classical archaeology or near Middle Eastern archaeology or anything like that.

Claire: Right, super cool. So it was more of a subfield before overarching field for you?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t even think of it as part of the subfield of anthropology when I, Became into it because it was like, I just like the idea of digging through really old stuff and like, you know, reading about excavations of Troy, reading about excavations of sort of Roman Colosseum, that kind of thing. It’s just like, oh my God, this stuff is amazing. And the way it allows you, uh, into sort of an intimate connection with the past and peoples of the past. And then, that was when I was a teenager, and then sort of when I went to college, it was like, oh, there’s lots of ideas, I’m interested in lots of ideas. And those were the ideas of anthropology.

Claire: Super cool.

Amber: I think it’s interesting because a lot of people don’t know that archaeology is a subfield of anthropology, even me myself. I was 21 years old when I found out what anthropology even was. So, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s definitely a broad field with so many different, so many different subtopics that you can dive into. Um, but going to, back to the archaeology, what exactly are you interested in? Like, what is something that interests you the most in archaeology?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, so talking, like, I got into it focusing on much more of a deep path. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Biblical Archaeology. Now I do incredibly recent stuff. So my main focus is more what you consider historical archaeology or contemporary archaeology, looking at the histories of the past maybe a hundred, two hundred years, um, with some, variation. So really, what can archaeology tell us about the world we live in today alongside all kinds of other methods, right? So we know a lot about the past 200 years from archives, from oral histories, and that archaeology has a kind of another interesting layer, another interesting method to understand the present.

Claire: So, Dr. Stewart, uh, would you consider historical archaeology more your niche, or is there something else that you would describe as more your area of expertise?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I, depending on the audience, I would say different things, but for the most part, I would say I’m a historical archaeologist, but I also focus on more contemporary issues. So, a lot of my work goes back as far as maybe 1900, which would put it very much within a historical archaeological frame. Um, but some of my work is interesting material culture that’s much more recent. So I was doing some work on material culture from undocumented migration, so within the past 10, 20 years. Uh, so that would be much more considered contemporary archaeology, and sort of somewhere in between there. If I’m talking to a, if I’m at a historical archaeology conference, I’ll say I’m a historical archaeologist, but other places I’d say I’m a contemporary archaeologist.

Claire: Sort of a case by case sorta.

Dr. Stewart: Case by case, depending on who I’m trying to get money from.

Amber: Would you say that there’s some more challenges or maybe it’s easier or harder to do archaeology looking at the last hundred years rather than more older time period?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, I would say there are definitely some things that are easier, but some things that are more challenging. Obviously, things that are much more recent, some people would view as much less valuable, unless, uh, people would be much less worried about what you do with them, the kind of archaeology you do. When I’m digging up, uh, 19th century trash dump. Very few people worry about what happens to the stuff afterwards or whether I, you know, that’s valuable heritage. I’m the only one who thinks that’s interesting. Um, but also you can be asking questions and dealing with populations that are still very present, right? We could be talking just a couple generations away. And so, in that sense, you can be dealing with stuff that’s a lot, that has a lot of value, but for very particular groups.

Amber: How does historical archaeology differ from prehistoric archaeology?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, so the big, biggest difference, and people, different people would say different things, but, uh, for me, historical archaeology is, it’s when archaeology is combined with texts, and so it’s the aspect of having a written record that makes it different. In practice, uh, historical archaeologists normally consider themselves archaeologists the past maybe 500 years or so looking at more an archaeology of the quote unquote “modern world” and they would distinguish that from an archaeology that also engages with periods and times that have texts like Classical archaeology, or Mesopotamian archaeology, or Chinese archaeology, or anything that they have text, but they’re sort of viewed as their own thing, different from historical archaeology, which at least in America is considered past 500 years or so.

Claire: Okay. So, uh, earlier you mentioned, um, how you dig up some of the trash sites or, uh, more recent stuff like that. So I just wanted to ask, um, how many archeological digs have you been on? And do you mind telling us a little bit about what those have been like?

Dr. Stewart: Sure. Yeah. Okay. I’ll, I’ll have to remember them. So my field school was in 2006, I think. So I, uh, excavated a biblical site that was very interesting. Uh, it was an old, it was a, mentioned a, a site mentioned in the Bible that had been destroyed by the Assyrians and so we were excavating it a, uh a city that had been basically burnt. So we were digging through an ash layer, uh, and like covered in old Assyrian arrowheads and stuff like that. So that was. That was an intense, uh, first experience. Uh, then I went and spent a couple years excavating on the northwest coast, um, uh, in British Columbia, um, looking at, um, mm, three to four thousand year old sites, uh, doing some survey of old midden sites working alongside, uh, a professor of mine at University of Toronto looking at, um, we’re doing some work for the Sechelt First Nations trying to map in their historical sites, their midden sites in the area. That was, late, yeah, maybe 2008, 2009. And then I kept going back a couple times, uh, while I also went down in Peru, excavated a Moche site. That was very cool, an old Moche temple. Then I started working in the desert in Arizona for three or four years. That’s when I was mapping and working with Jason DeLeon on mapping, uh, undocumented migration material culture. Did that for four or five years and went back to B.C. every once in a while to excavate, um, on the Sechelt, uh, burial site. Then I started my project in Edmonton, which turned into my dissertation project. And that was excavating, uh, early 20th century, uh, industrial site, uh, and a sort of depression era shantytown, which is also cool. And then while I was finishing that, I went and did three years, what three winters excavating in Senegal, excavating first, um, 16th, 16th century interior site. It was basically a village site and we were looking at how the interior of Senegal was being affected by the ongoing slave trade that was taking place off the coast of Senegal. And then the next two winters I went back to Senegal and was excavating an early mission site, a French mission site in the 19th century, and During the summer, during the winters I was in Senegal and then in the summers I’d go and do, continue my, uh, dissertation work on the shanty town and the industrial side of Edmonton. And my most recent project, uh, is back in Arizona looking at, uh, excavations of an old mining camp, an old land mining camp in, right on the border, maybe two or three miles from the U. S. Mexico border, close to the, uh, close to Nogales, in between Nogales and Sassabee, right on the border there. 

Claire: Those sound like some really interesting digs that you’ve been on. 

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, they were a lot of fun. 

Claire: Yeah. I got it. I got distracted right at the beginning by, um, the biblical one, your field school, uh, as we were talking a little bit about, I’m really interested in Classical archeology and, uh, biblical tales and mythology. It’s right up my alley. I’m working on a project right now about the collision of Greco Roman mythology and Christianity slash just the beginning of the Bible. Um, so that’s something that’s really interesting to me, uh, especially with the whole idea of a field school.

Amber: Oh yeah, for students who don’t know, could you tell us what exactly is a field school?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah. I mean, field schools are amazing. They’re basically, you take your classes in archaeology as an undergrad but you just learn a lot about the stuff archaeology does, you don’t actually get to do it. And field schools are where you actually get to go as a student and learn how to do archaeology by joining an ongoing field project that is doing real archaeological research. And you sort of jump in and learn how to dig and learn how to measure and learn how to draw and learn how to clean off artifacts and do all the things that you need to do as an archaeologist. And so it just, I mean it’s a very, it’s a very cool experience because it gets you out in the field, it gets you digging, gets you to engage with the objects, and also just like any, any kind of fieldwork, it gets you into a place that’s often very, very different and requires you to do a lot of things that you’ve never ever done before in a place you’ve never been. So it’s, there’s a lot of really cool things about field school.

Amber: You mentioned earlier about, uh, your, your field school and you were digging in a biblical city. Um, I was wondering, like, could you expand a little bit on what you were digging and, like, also, Um, earlier you mentioned Mesopotamian archaeology, and I’ve been looking a lot into the Sumerian origins of the Bible, and I was just wondering if you have any insight on, on that?

Dr. Stewart: Uh, no, I don’t, not too much. I mean, I love, I do love that kind of stuff. It’s definitely not in my purview, but the whole, you know, story of Gilgamesh and the flood and all that kind of stuff is having these amazing parallels going on in the Bible. Uh, It’s great. I mean, I love, Sumerian stuff is just, it is so old, it is so wild. The art coming out of there, the depictions of, I mean, of power and everything, it just, it’s almost otherworldly. Like, it’s so far in the past, it, it’s uh, in a way that like you, you’re, we’re so familiar with things like Egyptian stuff, or you, you see those, that kind of art, those kind of depictions from everywhere. But Mesopotamian stuff, it’s like, I don’t know. There’s something wild. I always wished I could do, uh, something there, but I never, the closest I ever got was my field school. Uh, really those old, old, old sites. Yeah. Uh, but the field school was, um, sort of 700 BC. It was talked about, so the, the connection to the Bible is in, I think, the Book of Kings. It talks about the Assyrians coming down and, um, I think it’s Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, and he swoops in like a wolf upon the fold and, like, burns 40 out of 41 of the Israelite towns and, uh, we were digging one of them. It was, it was, there was a debate whether it was biblical Ziglach or Ramon, um, and we were digging with a professor from Emory, um, who was a big in biblical archeology at the time. And, yeah, we were going through basically rooms that had, you could tell very clearly what was going on because like a fire had gone through. So we excavated one area that was just an old, um, like a weaving center and you could see all of the looms just on the ground and they’d been, they’re in a thing of ash. I remember coming across, uh, some old pots that had been, broken, but the stuff inside them was still there. So you’re coming up with like grape seeds where I was pulling up grape seeds that had been, I guess, a bowl of grapes in the, that had been smashed and broken at the time of the attack. Um, And just the, the fact that we were digging something that had a clear reference in the Bible always absolutely blew my mind. Like I wasn’t there because I was, um, religious. I was just, I was really interested in the stories and that there was this in this incredible old book, talking about something that we were actually digging through and not just sort of in general, but a very particular moment of it, this moment of an attack and looking, yeah, finding a Syrian arrowheads in midst of pots of grapes. It’s just like, wow, that’s amazing. Yeah.

Claire: That’s, that sounds like such a wild experience. I love that.

Dr. Stewart: Yeah.

Claire: Um, Do you have a favorite dig or any particular item you found on a dig that stood out to you?

Dr. Stewart: Uh, yeah, great question. I think the first object I would think of, it would be the sort of an Assyrian arrowhead that I pulled out in the field school and sort of the field school being a kind of really seminal moment in my career and sort of me coming to archaeology. Also, Excavating, uh, Burial on the Northwest Coast with, uh, with sort of an amazing array of finds associated with it were very impactful, sort of thousands of beads and decorations that were all laid out around the woman’s body, uh, very affecting. Also excavating on, um, Moche site, on Moche Temple when we’re digging up, like, sacrificed, um, people buried under the floors and sort of that is a sort of, like, both the really interesting aspect of thinking about the ceremonies and all the stuff going into dedications of space and power and all that kind of stuff, but also that you’re taking up someone who’d been strangled and buried under the floorboards as part of a dedication ceremony. So that was a, yeah, and I think at one point I actually put my trial through a person’s uh, cranium at the time and it was, yeah, but it was okay. They, but yeah, that was, uh, that was a affecting moment to the Peru, the Moche excavation.

Claire: I remember we were just in class today because I take anthropology 269 with Dr. Stewart, North American archeology. So if we have any UMass students listening, you should totally take that class. Um, and we were talking about a few weeks ago, we were talking about all of the, the shell beads that were found in, in those graves and what that could mean about the social hierarchy and such, and, um, just today we were talking about ritualistic sacrifice, especially at funerals. And that is just, it’s so interesting. Everything that archaeology, all, all these secrets that we can find out about past culture. It’s, it’s, insane. It’s mind blowing.

Dr. Stewart: Yeah. Yeah, it is. And, and actually digging it is, is, uh, that. And I guess that’s the point of field schools, right? It’s the, you learning about the stuff and then actually digging it and, you know, scraping off layers of dirt very, very slowly and eventually having artifacts pop up, having bodies pop up, having, you know, it’s a, it’s, have been under the ground for, in the case of the Moche, 1200 years or so. But in the case of BC, it was. Almost 4,000 years, so.

Claire: Crazy. 

Amber: So, you know, when you’re, when you’re preparing for field school, Is there anything, like, I, I mean, I’m, I’m guessing there’s a lot that goes into it, um. Do you mind telling us a little bit about the preparation process of the field school? What goes on when it comes to planning or directing a field school versus attending one?

Dr. Stewart: Mm. Yeah, I mean, they’re very, very different things. Directing a field school is just unbelievable amount of logistics and budgeting and, uh, basically treating it like a class, but with a class that you have to make sure your gas budget is okay, making sure your food budget is okay, making sure, like, uh, honestly, the, Field, field school directing, it removes you so much from all the best parts of archaeology. So you, you do it because like you’re very happy the excavations and the, the research is going on, but 90 percent of your bandwidth is focusing on things that are completely separate from, uh, actually the excavating part. When one is a student, the preparation is just like how to best feel comfortable in a really strange place. And that means, you know, bringing good equipment, bringing good clothes, getting into a mindset that you’re really, you’re willing to be totally shocked out of your comfort zone. And, uh, and also, it’s incredibly physical. Like, excavating, you think, when you see people, often you just see people kind of sitting in a crouch. Sitting in a crouch for six or eight hours in the hot sun takes a lot, takes it out of you. And so, you can be, you know, Incredibly exhausted. It is incredibly mentally and physically fatiguing. So get ready for that. Get ready for being in the sun probably longer than you’re comfortable for. Get ready to wear way bigger hats than you’re comfortable wearing. And, uh, yeah, get very dusty. It’s very, very dusty. So.

Claire: Get ready to sort of have, if we look at movies and popular media, get ready to have your Indiana Jones moment, but a little less glamorous and with more sunscreen.

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, exactly. Well, cause like the most of the time with Indiana Jones, he’s, he’s, he just has to break into something and get something out of it. It’s, he had, it’s much more, it’s very slow and it’s, uh, potentially, yeah, much less glamorous. So, but at the end, you actually get to experience the finding of the thing. And that’s amazing.

Claire: That’s such a beautiful experience. Um, another thing that I briefly mentioned to you is that I’m going on a field school this summer, which I’m so excited for. So I just, I can’t wait to have that firsthand experience of what I hope the rest of my life will look like. It’s, it’s so interesting and field schools just seem like a wonderful, wonderful thing. So, Uh, I wanted to know if you could talk a little bit about what I hear your current work is with the Ruby Archaeological Project?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, totally. Uh, so for the past, since 2019, I’ve been working on, uh, Ruby’s an old, it’s a ghost town now, but it was a big lead mining site in the, starting around 1900. Really became big in the 1920s and 1930s, um, kind of folded in the 1940s, and it was, um, one of the biggest lead mines in Arizona produced a lot of the lead in, like, the paint that is in your houses that you’re trying to avoid. A lot of that is likely coming from Ruby. Um, And it was worked by mostly Mexican migrants coming up, brought by the company, a company called Eagle Pitcher. Uh, and what we’ve been doing over the past few years is excavating the, um, the tent city where most of the miners and their families lived. And just to get a better sense of, we know not too much about the community that’s living there, what they’re, daily lives were like and also sort of my main focus on a lot of this stuff is how are they dealing with the fact that they were living directly downwind of all kinds of mine tailings in a very unhealthy landscape and trying to trace some of the, uh, their strategies for living in the place, but also some of the negative effects of being in a place that’s, I mean, the whole place is covered in lead tailings and they’re living downwind of a big pile of lead tailings. And so what can we learn about that?

Claire: Right.

Amber: Why did you choose Ruby, uh, in Arizona specifically? Is there something, I mean, special about that place?

Dr. Stewart: I mean, there’s definitely something special about Ruby. Uh, it’s, it is, I mean, you go there and it’s this sort of incredible ghost town. It very much has all the, like, old Adobe buildings in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, old, uh, kind of wild west feel. Um, but the reason I chose it, so my dissertation in, uh, focus is much more on sort of understanding landscapes that are being deformed by industrial processes and communities that are being harmed by exposure to industrial waste and contaminants. And I was working on my dissertation project in Edmonton on that, and I had a long history of working in Arizona, and I just, in working, came across this ghost town, and thought for many years, tried to figure out a way to get back there and to do some work there, and they sort of eventually came up with the project. So it was very much that the site was very, very compelling to me, and I couldn’t figure out what project to do on it. And then eventually after a few years, I realized something that could be pretty cool. Um, and so I think we’ll probably be going back, not this summer, but the next summer. But, uh, I don’t know how much longer it’ll come out after that.

Claire: That sounds like a really exciting project and

Dr. Stewart: Very hot.

Claire: Yeah. Oh, I can imagine. Lots of those big hats we were talking about. 

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, huge.

Claire: Haha um, so we were talking about this industrial, these industrial dangers on the environment, on the people living there. Um, would you say that’s why the material remains of these mining families in Ruby? Would you say that’s why This research affects us today?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah. I mean, I would proudly think of it as trying to figure out different ways that archeology can help understand some of the issues we’re dealing with today in terms of pollution, climate change, broad anthropogenic transformations of the world in the worst sense. And so, thinking about the past is a whole bunch of examples of people living in places becoming increasingly toxic and dealing with this. Uh, and that those are both violences and violent histories that are often silenced and not talked about, so we should bring those to the surface. But also, they help us better understand what it means to live in a place that’s becoming toxic, which is all of our world right now.

Amber: Hmm. What is your approach for the interpretation of the material remains that you dig? And for people who are not in the anthropological field, could you tell them a little bit about your methods for digging up material remains?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, okay, so the methods are pretty standard, or at least for this, uh, for the most part pretty standard. It’s surveying, trying to find the stuff in the ground. Uh, so this Ruby site is, uh, Kind of different. I, I, there are some contemporary projects I’ve done where it’s very little actual digging at all. You’re just kind of looking at surface stuff. This stuff is, you’re digging, um… so survey to find the stuff in the ground. Digging to get some kind of sense of a resolution of how the stuff, what’s the context of it. Um, and then basic kind of analysis. And in historical stuff, your analysis is often organized. It’s, it’s relatively self evident in that year. You’re finding a lot of glass and you glass bottles and you can kind of look to old catalogs to be like, okay, what are these bottles? How are people categorizing their cataloging them? And so you, you kind of follow that, um, the difference. So I also bring, uh, some more environmental testing to test things like lead concentrations, heavy metal concentrations, both in terms of, making sure the team is protected and not being, not digging in places that are dangerous to dig in, um, as well as to better understand how mapping out heavy metals in the landscape to understand how the communities that were living there in the past might’ve been exposed. So that’s different than, uh, a lot of archeological toolkits. So having to use a portable XRF to measure that kind of thing.

Claire: That’s really interesting to, to hear about the, you know, the physical, the physicalities of what happens.

Dr. Stewart: Mm hmm. .

Claire: Um, so. We’ve heard about during the field school. What happens to the artifacts, the, these material remains after the initial dig and analysis? Or, or the field school?

Dr. Stewart: I mean, it can take forever, right? You bring stuff back and you bring it to your lab and you analyze it. And that sounds a lot easier than it is. Cause one can analyze things in many different ways, many different kinds of specificity. And some, it can take years and years and years. Like I have stuff still from, uh, dissertation that I haven’t brought back to the museum, but that’s the sort of the end repository of giving it back to the museum. Um, because you always hope that maybe if there’s just, I look at it one more time and maybe sort of go over some of the stuff one more time, I might find one or two things before I finally give it up. But when you finally give it up, yeah, you write your report, um, I mean, it depends technically who the owner of the stuff is, if it’s on state land or if it’s on private land, it’s kind of different issues. But, um, for the stuff in Edmonton, for instance, yeah, I have a bunch of boxes that are very close to… once the book comes out and once, uh, Everything is totally finalized around my dissertation research. The report gets sent in and I bring back a whole bunch of catalog boxes and they sit in a warehouse somewhere in the University of Alberta, uh, University of Alberta Museum for a long time.

Amber: Are there any, like, ethical issues when it comes to handling material remains?

Dr. Stewart: I mean, in general, in archaeology, absolutely. There’s tons and tons of ethical issues, and that can be questions of, um, skeletal remains, it can be questions of sacred objects. Obviously, in North America, that is a huge issue, dealing with, um, traditions of archaeology, trying to access, um, indigenous remains, uh, and indigenous material culture. Um, for my work, it’s a sort of, different set of issues. There’s both the kind of like worry, let’s say we’re dealing with areas close to lead tailings. Like how does one remain safe in those kinds of spaces? And then there’s a question of I’m dealing with communities that are very, very recent. So a lot of their families are still around. So how can we make sure that what I’m doing is, um, in line with the fact that I could be talking about families of people who are still alive, that they remember them. And so, making sure that’s, uh, all above board, and I’m not insulting anyone’s family, I’m not making anyone upset, I’m just trying to bring people’s stories to light then in a way that descended communities would be happy with.

Claire: I I think that’s it must be really difficult in some ways to work with some of these ethical concerns. But I I feel like just the way that you’ve described it right here with trying to bring these stories to life is such, such a beautiful way of putting it. And it it must be tough, but very rewarding for for you and for all these people who are getting to hear these stories that they might not have otherwise gotten to hear. Um, is, is this something that you would consider your favorite part about your work? Or is there something else that stands out to you as your favorite part of your work?

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, I mean, definitely bringing stuff to light that has been forgotten and that, bringing stuff that is meaningful to people around today, like that is, that’s pretty amazing. The, the stuff now that I, so those aspects, so they’re very good and very honest answers. I would also say like now that I have spent most of my time just prepping field schools or prepping excavations or dealing with all the, like the report writing and the The logistical aspects of archaeology, the things I miss are like, when you’re young and you’re actually just down in the unit, you’re digging all the time. I don’t actually get to do that anymore. So that’s, that’s what I miss. And those are the things that, sort of, you know, you don’t think at the time. Like, oh. Never going to get back in the unit again, but now that’s the thing. You’re like, oh man, I wish I could, I could just be a shovel bum hanging out in the bottom of a, of a unit.

Claire: Yeah. It’s this, it’s this thing that you don’t realize until it’s too late and life goes by so quick. So do you have a least favorite thing off the top of your head?

Dr. Stewart: Uh, I mean, most of it is pretty great. The, the, um, writing reports. Yeah, I don’t like writing reports.

Claire: I think we can relate.

Amber: You know, I was doing an internship with, um, Professor Eric Johnson, uh, at the, uh, the Center for, um, Curation Center. And, um, the amount of reports that we had to look at and sort and the amount of paperwork for every single project is crazy. It’s hundreds and hundreds of pages of paperwork and I just know it was a headache to sort it out. So I cannot even imagine how, how much of a headache it can be to be having to get out of all of these paperwork.

Dr. Stewart: No, absolutely. Especially in those CRM field. It’s so much report writing.

Amber: Are there, um, are there any things that you would want people to know about your work, your field, or like you personally? Um, any websites or blogs or anything outside of what you have on the UMass Anthropology website?

Dr. Stewart: Um, I’d not really, although I would say as a, it’s not out yet, but hopefully I’ll, my, uh, manuscript for my book will be going in soon, so look out for, uh, my upcoming book about my Edmonton research, because it’s just going to be so good.

Amber: Oh, what is it called? 

Dr. Stewart: Working title is The Haunted Creek.

Claire: Ooh.

Dr. Stewart: Yeah. Yeah.

Amber: That sounds very spooky.

Dr. Stewart: That sounds good, right?

Claire: Yeah, that’s a good one. Yeah. I’ll keep an eye out in my local Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, exactly.

Claire: I expect an email when that comes out, because I will be on top of that.

Dr. Stewart: I’ll send it around. Yeah.

Amber: Well, thank you so much. This was such a great interview, and thank you so much for talking with us. 

Dr. Stewart: Yeah, thanks for this. This was a lot of fun.

Claire: Yeah. Thanks, Dr. Stewart. It was great to get to know you a little bit. Um, have a great day. Thank you.

Dr. Stewart: Thank you guys too.

Amber: Thank you so much.

[Transition music]

Amber: Claire, what did you think about Dr. Stewart’s interview? Have you ever taken an archaeology class at UMass?

Claire: So I absolutely loved this interview, Amber. My specialization within anthropology is actually in archeology and cultural heritage. And my first ever archeology course was actually with Dr. Stewart. I took anthropology 269, which is an introduction to North American archeology. And it really pushed me into my personal focus. It along with another class that I was taking actually inspired me to pick up a minor in the classics field with a focus in Classical archeology. And that all led to me taking a field school. So I’ll be doing an archeological field school in Greece this summer where I’ll be looking at pottery like we were talking about earlier. And I’m just super, super excited for that and to take even more classes in archaeology.

Amber: Wow, that’s so exciting. I actually really wish I had done a field school before I graduated. I’d say that’s my one regret, is to not have done a field school. So I’m really excited for you to go to Greece.

Claire: Thank you.

Amber: Especially, um, I think Greece has so much to excavate and so many different sites. So you will be learning a lot and I’m really excited for you.

Claire: Definitely. Thank you so much, Amber. I appreciate it. What about you? What’s what’s, what was your favorite part of the interview?

Amber: I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Stewart talk about his experience with his excavations actually, um, because that sounds really fun, and I think I really like the concept of doing hands on, you know, uh, digging and getting dirty, as he said, um, on the field. So that was really interesting. But for me personally, I have not had a lot of experiences with archaeology. I’d say, um, it’s one of the subfields I haven’t really focused on. As much as the biological anthropology, my only experience with archaeology at UMass was actually through interning at the UMass Curation Center with Professor Eric Johnson and also taking his class Ancient Civilization. This class was really amazing for me because it talked about Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, their ancient religions and myths, and how they lived back then. And it also talked about ancient Egypt and focused heavily on archaeology and the history of archaeology as well as the ethical issues in the subfield that must be addressed in order to come to terms with past mistakes that were made by earlier archaeologists.

Claire: That sounds like a really interesting class. That’s definitely something that I would like to take in the future. Um, but that is all the time we have for today. So thank you all for tuning into our show and another thanks to our team members and our collaborators with AnthroHub, especially our tech crew. To stay connected, you can find us on Instagram as at anthro.mp3. You can also find our sources, transcripts of each episode, and more in our AnthroHub show notes. I was one of your hosts today, Claire, joined by our other host, Amber, and our tech crew, Phuong, Yueming, and Emily. Make sure to tune in next time to further explore the field of anthropology with us again. If you enjoyed this episode, you’ll love our next one, which is an introduction to cultural anthropology with another exclusive interview. Keep an eye out on our Instagram for future updates on shows, specials, and events. And catch us next time, and have a great day, friends!


Pin It on Pinterest