I arrived as a mostly unfocused freshman at Brown in the fall of 1966, considering a major in psychology or math. After one semester I lost interest in the former, and a year of terror in calculus disabused me of a future in the latter. How I ended up in a beginning anthropology class during my second semester is lost to memory, but from then on, I was hooked.
PART II: REFLECTIONS ON RESEARCH WITH J. LOUIS GIDDINGS
Professor Giddings was a very gentle person who loved his work—and was very good at it. In my case, having worked weekends at the Bristol museum site regularly during the academic year and having participated in three summers of field research in Alaska as his student assistant, I had the opportunity to learn from him about the discipline of anthropology and especially archaeology through conversations beyond the classroom setting. This was invaluable. If I had a question or wished to discuss some topic, even personal, that was on my mind he was always there. If he had opinions about particular scholars or lines of thought he would express them. This helped me at an early age to understand that it was OK to respect my own thoughts, not to seek trends however elite they may seem to be, and decide for myself how to approach the discipline. This served me as a graduate student during the years when ethno-science and French structuralism dominated the field and grad students were eager to sign on to one or the other of these. I felt inclined to be a listener, to learn what was to be learned, even to be moved and smitten by it, but to not personally identify with intellectual cliques. At graduate school I saw that happening among my peers and regarded it as a kind of disassociation from reality. Continue reading
In the summer of 2010, I helped to extract the left distal humerus of a woolly mammoth from a layer of permafrost in the remote arctic tundra along Alaska’s Kobuk River. That same week, my team uncovered the remains of two human skeletons beneath a collapsed wooden structure just meters away. Peri-mortem fractures suggested a struggle. I camped for weeks along the river in the wilderness with only a handful of other students and archeologists. We had no electricity, no internet, no iPhones. The sun lingered high in the sky all day and all night. Some days it rained so hard I blended in with the mud. I was polka-dotted with mosquito bites. I learned to sleep with an eye mask to block the constant sun and bear spray tucked under one arm. I learned not to spray bear spray into the wind. I learned how to excavate fragile artifacts and bones with precision, how to live in the wilderness (with the help of a camp guide, candy, and tents provided by the NSF). I learned to chop a tree. I developed a vague sense of direction without my beloved GPS. While these may seem like minor accomplishments (or in the case of bear spray, common sense), prior to this excavation, I’d never even slept in a tent. Continue reading
As an Arctic Archaeologist, the Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol was a special place of discovery for me. I came to Brown University in 1999 to complete a PhD degree in Anthropology with renowned Arctic Archaeologist, Doug Anderson. I had just finished up a Masters in geology at the University of Alberta, where I studied site formation processes affecting an archaeological site in the northern Yukon. I was eager to continue my explorations in the Arctic and had just finished reading Louis Giddings’s “Ancient Men of the Arctic” when I stepped off the plane in Providence. I was accompanied by my younger brother, Paul, who was coming to Brown for an undergraduate degree and to play on the Brown Men’s Hockey team. Continue reading
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Haffenreffer Museum and its Circumpolar Lab, housed within the museum complex on the Grant of Mount Hope, changed the course of my life. I arrived at Brown after a summer learning about glacial mechanics and our warming planet through the Juneau Icefield Research Program. It was there that my appreciation for the plants and animals that thrive in very harsh conditions and the beauty of those conditions themselves was fostered. Continue reading