By Lauren Butero
Today may have been the crew’s last day in the field, but our work isn’t over. We spent today completing the end of our on-site recording both in the field and in our field laboratory, backfilling the last of our units, recording the last reference points for features, and packing up camp for the season. However, back in Albuquerque our work will continue. The in-depth analysis will begin and the group will have maps to make, records to formalize and finalize, and lots of information to process. While we won’t be surrounded by the beauty of the Canyon every day, the importance of what is to come shouldn’t be understated. What happens between now and the end of our semester (and beyond, in the case of the graduate teaching assistants) is essential. Our ability to record and interpret what we have seen, photographed, collected and measured determines whether or not the parts of the past that we collected and excavated and the knowledge and potential within those parts of the sites are preserved. If we fail to be diligent with our notations, reports, logs, and in caring for the artifacts we removed, much of the knowledge contained in the site we worked on could be lost. Excavation is a destructive practice, meaning that once it has been completed the site can never be returned to exactly how it was before. Some information such as relationships between objects and layers of soils is permanently lost if that information is not recorded in a way that people will be able to access it in the future. Even for things that are left untouched by our scientific endeavors, Mother Nature and other humans can take a toll and wash and erode away information with the ebb and flow of time. Archeology is the attempt to conserve the knowledge that is trapped in between the layers of time. Beyond recording, archeology is also about analyzing and theorizing --- essentially figuring out what all of our observations and measurements MEAN on a larger scale which will be part of our continuing work.
Beyond the importance of our records and observations and theories, the field school also produced a crew that began as students and finished as a new group of archeologists. While our units are now invisible to passerby, the knowledge and skills gained by the group cannot be hidden under a layer of eroded sandstone dust. The field makes the best classroom, where students learn by doing and by experiencing. It also has strengthened the crew, and not only our backs and callouses on our palms. It was an unforgettable opportunity that none of us will likely forget, nor the bond that it forged between the crew and the canyon and between one another, living and working together. I think more than one of our group discovered they were made of tougher stuff than they thought, especially after our record cold nights and shortened schedule. Others uncovered talents they weren’t aware of and we will all walk away with wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime memories and stories and knowledge that we will carry with us as we accomplish more. Beyond that, hopefully, experiences and friendships forged in ice are as strong as those forged by fire.