The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June - the Cruelest Month

Summertime is busytime for archaeologists. The weather permits our work to go more-or-less unimpeded, and so we hit the field in droves. Indeed, it is during this time of year that the Department of Fish and Game removes size limit prohibitions on hunting archaeologists, lest we become so numerous that we over-run the ecosystem. It's a common thing to see a processualist tied to the hood of some redneck's pickup, his copy of "Willow Smoke and Dogs Tails" still clutched in his now cold hand. Rarer, but still not unheard of, are the episodes in which a post-processualist will attempt to argue that they are, in fact, not yet dead, as the bullet that the hunter fired is merely a social construct and thus not capable of depriving the archaeologist of life without the archaeologist's consent, and besides, it is only a flesh wound.

Last summer, I was assigned to a project on the Middle Fork of the American River. For various reasons, the project became a creeping source of stress, lurking in the corner of my office and occasionally taking me in its slimy clutches and forcing me to work in a place named (and I am not making this up) Hell Hole. Due to this project, I lost alot of sleep, more than a little weight, and missed several events in the lives of friends and family - including the immediate aftermath of my grandmother's death. It didn't help that my crew alternated between obstinate and incompetent, forcing me (and my coworker Kelly, who was an amazingly good sport about everything) to repeat work (usually without billing our time - leading to 90 hour weeks in which I was paid for 40 hours on more than one occasion).

And the project is back this summer. I have been dreading it, but things are looking up. I have been given the greenlight to divide my crew into two teams, allowing us to cover ground twice as quickly. On top of that, one of the company's owner assigned a field tech to work with me by the name of Francisco, a fellow whose competence is exceeded only by his professionalism, which is in turn exceeded only by his excellent attitude. I have also managed to snag a field tech named Laura, who saved my butt by being extremely competent in her own right a few weeks ago when I needed back-up during the debacle with the fellow who walked off the project. On top of that, I may get two more field technicians who were both students of mine at UC Santa Barbara.

So, I have an all-star team in the field, a better grasp on how to deal with the situations as they arise, and an overall pretty good feeling about the project. While I'd still rather not be heading out of town for a week, especially not to Hell Hole, I have to admit, things are looking up.

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