Steph Halmhofer - What you don't learn in class
School teaches us a lot. What you’ll quickly learn with archaeological fieldwork is that school hasn’t taught you everything. In archaeology there are “book smarts” learned in the classroom and “street smarts” learned in the field. These are typically about going into an environment and learning how to work within it. Where I work in southwestern British Columbia, our street smarts are often taught to us by nature. We need to learn how to work in forested, natural environments full of wildlife that doesn’t care you’re there. These are some of the things I’ve learned from nature:
1) Ground wasps don’t like it when you stop to take notes on top of their nest.
2) Ground wasps like to build their nests in the middle of your site. and wait for an unsuspecting undergrad student to come surveying.
3) Goshawks will knock you off your feet with their dive-bombs.
4) Eagles don’t care that you’re digging near their tree. If they want to eat a seagull and drop seagull bits and feathers beside your unit they’ll do it.
5) Bears will poop all over your site.
6) Coyotes will come into your site in the middle of the day to check out what you’re doing. Then they’ll wait until you’ve left for lunch and chew your artifact bags.
7) Peeing on a tree covered in cougar scratches is basically issuing a territorial challenge. So you probably should have noticed those scratches before peeing on that tree.
We work on sites in different environments all around the world, and no textbook will ever truly prepare you for that. We need to be adaptable and flexible to the environments we work in, and have a lot of fun along the way!