After Decades of Frozen Stagnation

It’s not often profitable to point out the negative but conversely, it doesn’t do us good to hide our problems and pretend they don’t exist.

20140610_100541

A little cleaning to start things off.

We have been making small improvements over the past year in the Blackwater Draw Museum and I certainly hope they continue.  We began by removing decades of accumulated junk, hoarded telephone books, outdated flyers, broken appliances, broken electronics, food containers, etc. that accumulated in the backrooms of the museum.  Now we begin a new phase.  We are still extremely limited by budget but a little enthusiasm from students and a little guidance can go a long way toward making things better.  Many thanks to those who began helping last year and who are moving us forward into a new era.

20140610_153451

Brightening and creating a clean look.

Much to everyone’s consternation, Some displays have lingered, unfinished, for 20 years.  This level of apathy brings me actual physical pain but enthusiastic volunteers were found to kickstart a new look.

20140610_094424

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph this before we began but this is a couple hours into work.  Tattered labels are removed, and a base layer of blue was put into the oceans.

20140610_153432

Coastlines were repaired, poorly-placed elements removed, and color is layered on.

Mapjune112014

The artist not only repaired Cuba, Florida, the Canadian islands and lakes, but was so bold she added Iceland as well.

More to come as we move forward.

Following Up on the South Bank

The South Bank of the Clovis site refers to an area at the southern end of the prehistoric pond around which lie a group of cultural sites spanning a time from the end of the last ice age until recent historic times.  This watering hole provided a marshy habitat for plants and animals and was the focus of human activity for the last 14,000 years.

SouthBank

The South Bank area of the Clovis site. View to the southwest.

Professional research on the South Bank of the Clovis site has been going on since the mid-1930s.  In fact, this is the area of the Clovis site where it was discovered for the first time, beyond any legitimate doubt, that humans were hunting mammoths in North America.  Other than the spear points we now know as Clovis, major discoveries in the South Bank area include bone spear points embedded in mammoth, spokeshaves, gravers, Levallois blades, turtle shells, bone flakers, bone foreshafts, and a variety of knives and other cutting tools.

Although more work has been done in the South Bank area than any other portion of the site, only a tiny fraction of all the work in this area has been published to date.  A few of us are working hard to remedy this and I have dedicated my career to unraveling the mess of 80+ years of excavation, sampling, and recording of this site.

Howard

Edgar Howard at the Clovis site, 1933.

What we’re up to now.  A building was placed over a small portion of the South Bank in the 1990s to preserve in situ some of the spectacular preserved specimens from this area.  As time permits, we are slowing removing the overburden in this area to reveal the palimpsest of bison kills, butchering, and other activities in this area.  A particularly good crew of excavators with faunal experience were willing to volunteer some of their time over the past couple weeks and huge progress is being made.

 

Here’s a gallery of random photographs from the excavations so far.

Thanks to those who are giving time to this project of mine.  Since, for me, archaeology isn’t worth doing without disseminating the information to the broader public I’ll update the blog as we continue to make progress.  Unfortunately, day-to-day operations of the Landmark and the university take precedent over the fun stuff like this so it will be back to the grindstone before too long.

Five Truths About Graduate School That Nobody Tells You

Some Good Advice for Graduate Students From Psychology Today Online:

Five Truths About Graduate School That Nobody Tells You

The importance of shifting from the “student” to the “professional” mentality.
Published on October 28, 2013 by Nathaniel Lambert, Ph.D. in Publish and Prosper

There are some crucial things to know about graduate school that are not typically discussed out in the open, but that could make all the difference for you (or for your graduate students). It ultimately boils down to this: the ultimate key to graduate school is transitioning from a “student” mentality to a “professional” mentality. Having published 23 articles in research journals before graduating, I think I successfully made this change of mindset and I can help you to do so as well. Here are five important truths to assist you in making this transition:

Truth #1: Graduate School is Not School at All, but an Apprenticeship.

The term “school” makes you think that the most important aspect of this experience is class and that you are a student who must do well in the class. However, your goal is not to get straight A’s, but to learn to become a productive, independent researcher. A more fitting term for graduate school would be “professorial apprenticeship.” The apprenticeship system was first developed in the later Middle Ages to help novice tradesman to learn a skilled vocation (such as carpentry) from a master teacher. This is the true purpose of graduate school, to learn the trade (publishing) by doing the trade, not by simply reading about it and talking about it in classes. If you were the manager of a large furniture manufacturer looking to hire someone, would you be more interested in applicants who had read a lot about building furniture, knew all the theory behind it, etc., or would you like to hire someone who had already built several pieces under the hands of a master teacher?

Truth #2: Your Career Starts on Your First Day of Graduate School

People with the “student” mentality think that their career begins when they get the coveted tenure-track position and they procrastinate seriously doing the research job that they’ve been hired to do. Those with the “professional” mentality recognize that everything they do as a graduate student counts towards their overall record and they begin to work on publications immediately. They show up every day ready to work on their job of publishing rather than spending most of their time preparing for their enhancement workshops (class). They know what the priority is and their time allocation reflects this. An important facet of this recognition is to not be limited by the clock. Those with the “student” mentality work until their assigned 10 or 20 research assistantship hours are complete, whereas those with the “professional” mentality know that any additional time they spend on this core task will be “counted” toward getting a job and future advancement and so they do not limit themselves to time for which they are being paid. I often put in 2-3 times the hours that I was paid for and believe me it paid off. Think of yourself not as a student logging in some hours, but as a salaried professional working toward a promotion!

Truth #3: Grades Don’t Really Matter

As an undergraduate, I was a grade grubber. I would study long hours and then show up to office hours to demonstrate to the professor why my answer on the test should get partial credit so that I could get an A rather than an A-. That was important back then, but it sure isn’t in graduate school. This was so clear to me as I applied for a jobs at over 70 universities. How many asked me for my transcripts? One. Don’t just take my word for it. In “A Guide to Ph.D. Graduate School: How They Keep Score in the Big Leagues,” Charles Lord (2004) writes the following:

Since I have been in my department, we have hired more than half the current faculty. I have been intensively involved in all of these searches, both during the time I was department chair and later. Would it surprise you to know that I have never seen the graduate transcript of any of my colleagues? We do not request a transcript of graduate grades because my colleagues and I would regard that information as useless. We are trying to hire the best scholars, not people who got the best grades in their graduate courses (p.10).

What you have created (your publications) is ultimately the best evidence of a successful apprenticeship and your best selling point. I’m not recommending that you not put in a good effort in class, because you will learn things that will help your publishing and in most programs you still need a B to pass the class. In some programs you may lose your funding if you don’t meet a certain threshold and certainly if you are just getting a Master’s and plan to get a Ph.D. elsewhere, your grades matter. So do try to do pretty well, but I’m just saying that it just shouldn’t be your top priority as you don’t have to get perfect grades anymore. There’s a huge difference in effort from an A- to an A or a B+ to an A-. Put that effort into research!

Truth #4: You Can’t Afford to Check Out For Long Breaks Like Undergraduates

Individuals with the “student” mentality follow the same pattern as undergraduates, once finals are over they live it up and check out all through Christmas break and the summer. Life and priorities are scheduled around class. However, with a professional mentality you realize that you can’t afford to take such long breaks because you’ve got a job to do that is not centered on class. Everything is scheduled around research. I’m not suggesting that you need to become a workaholic. Have some fun, play hard, but don’t play as long as the undergrads because you have already started your career and everything you do counts. For example, those with the professional mentality enjoy the extra time in the summer, unencumbered with classes to make huge strides in their publishing.

Truth #5: Theses and Dissertations Can Actually Hamper Your Progress

Whoa, you might say, this guy is really radical, how can a thesis or dissertation actually hurt you? Aren’t these research based after all? It’s true that going through the research process and getting some extra input and supervision can help you learn the craft. But here’s when it can be counterproductive: when doing this project is perceived as the ultimate objective and the ultimate achievement you should strive for. Let me illustrate. I’ll never forget running my first experiment in a computer lab that was shared by several other graduate students and everyone kept asking me, “So is this for your master’s thesis or for your dissertation?” After a while I felt like screaming, “No, don’t you get it, there’s more to graduate school than a stupid dissertation. I’m doing this just for the sake of publishing an article!” Focusing on a dissertation gives those with a “student” mentality a false sense of accomplishment as if they have now completed their research requirement. Truly these milestones exist, in my opinion, to give structure for the weakest of students to get them some exposure to the research process. My graduate advisor wisely counseled me to have multiple manuscript projects underway and then when it came time for my dissertation, I could decide which project was at the “right stage” to call my dissertation. Obviously, you need to complete these hurdles, but they can be completed as one step toward your bigger goal of publishing several manuscripts.

Making the mental switch from the “student” mentality to the “professional” mentality will make all the difference for you or for your graduate students. I am curious to hear from you, which of these truths did you find to be most surprising? I cover all of these core truths in much greater depth with helpful application exercises in my book Publish and Prosper. Also, if you are enjoying the content, receive regular updates on the posts by liking my Facebook page.

Take Action

I encourage you to take action now to change your outlook of graduate school by completing some “Wrap Up Exercises” that will help you apply the important principles I’ve discussed here. Simply go to my website and then click on “Book Exercise Downloads” and then click on the free download of “Chapter 14 Wrap up Exercises.” This will be very helpful for you to cement the principles I have discussed!

An Alibates Knife

AlibatesKnifeHere’s an interesting Paleoindian biface made from banded Alibates chert.  It was apparently discovered by a local resident in the early 1970s.  The tool (knife) measures about 12 cm (4 3/4″) and is remarkably thin, with flaking consistent with other Clovis bifaces from the site.  I have used this, as well as other unusual specimens to demonstrate the wide variety of lithic tools that are part of the tool kit that are often overlooked in the popular media.  Although we cannot be certain as to it’s exact temporal placement, based on morphology, the area where it was recovered and information from the finder, I think it is most likely Clovis in age, but we will never be certain.

I decided to post this today as one of our graduate researchers, Stacey Bennett just came across the original field note from when it was returned to the Landmark in 1984.

AlibatesKnifeNotes

A Bison Trap at the Clovis Site (poster)

Bison Trap_S.BennettAn excellent poster about Ms. Bennett’s work on the South Bank Bison Trap at the Clovis Site.  Click the image for a larger image or the following for a full pdf:

Bison Trap_S.Bennett_10-7-2013_smallest

and with Impeccable Timing…

All day, every day at the Paleoamerican Odyssey we were bombarded with a few images on the information televisions.  One of these images was the Rutz Clovis point.  It, or at least a good cast, was viewable in the artifact display room along with the Fenn Cache and some other truly remarkable finds.  Of course, the initial advertisement for the conference meeting mentioned that there would be artifacts from the actual Blackwater Draw Clovis site but if they were there, I missed them.  Maybe they were not in plain sight.

rutz-clovis_01

Image by: Pete Bostrum, http://lithiccastinglab.com/.

For those of you NOT familiar with this remarkable biface, it is alleged to be a Clovis-age point discovered in Douglas County, Washington and, if authentic, is the largest Clovis point known in North America.  Pretty cool surface find, eh?  This is not to say that every knapper or archaeologist is convinced, but I don’t know many people who could even get a hands-on look.  If by some chance, it is authentic, it is a little outside the norm for a Clovis point.  Who knows?  My initial impression, as a person who has handled many authentic Paleoindian points, and made a fair few, is that the margins are remarkably poorly-formed for the finished state of the base and extremely long and very rippled flute.

From what I know of the history, and it is very little, is that this point was announced and immediately put up for sale on a “Treasure Hunter” website in February of 2013 by a “family member” of the finder.  Apparently then, sometime recently, a website was created called the http://rutzclovispoint.com/ with vital statistics and images of the point.

Where is this all going?  Well, the Rutz “Clovis” point is now up for auction!  What lucky timing.  Didn’t something like this happen in conjunction with the Clovis and Beyond?

Okay then, your cultural heritage is bought and sold piece-by-piece every day.  But who cares?

A fine question (as I am a pessimist when it comes to the natural goodness of people).

So the rub with this sale, and the others rumored this week, is that this was facilitated by the very conference that we, as professional archaeologists, just attended.  Or is it just a lucky coincidence?  I personally feel like a sucker.  It was difficult to even go to this meeting after the blow-back of the preceding weeks.  Now this?  Did Texas A&M and the Center for the Study for the First Americans really want this association?  I sincerely hope not but the list of Board Members at the CSFA concerns me greatly.  I am ready to throw my hands up in despair at our readiness to turn to the dark side.  To further your career, what is your price?

This is a real and legitimate question.  What is the proper relationship between those who trade in bits and pieces of the past and those who are meant to study it?  I have looked through many private collections in my career and most collectors are good people.  But there is something special bout the Paleoindian hoarder collector just as there is a gritty edge to some Paleoindian archaeologists.  Much like the need to possess an artifact from the Clovis type-site, regardless of the morality or even legality of the claim.

Please, feel free to comment.  I’ll continue this discussion…mañana.