I am very pleased to be joining the anthropology faculty at the University of Minnesota. Up until now, I had only known the department, the University, and the region by reputation, so it is exciting to be given the chance to learn them first-hand instead. As an archaeologist, it’s like starting a new site.
My first clue that I would be an archaeologist came as an undergraduate at Northeastern University in Boston. While I was an anthropology major, both history and geology ran close seconds for my interest. Unfortunately at that time, none of these were great job prospects, and I ended up working as a data analyst at a hospital in Boston. On the side, I kept reading all that I could on anthropology, archaeology, and history, and finally decided to start a Master’s degree program in historical archaeology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I got my first field experience there, at the site of Magunkaquog, where one of seven “Praying Indian" communities was located. Investigating a site where indigenous people negotiated the new colonial world captured my interest, especially in trying to understand how complex identities are expressed and constructed through material culture.
I completed my Master’s thesis on a Contact-period Native American site in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. I specifically looked at different lithic utilization practices among gendered activity areas of the site. During and after this period I was also learning the ropes working in cultural resource management archaeology at what is now the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts. I worked as a field technician, a material analyst, supervisor, and finally ran my own projects and produced reports—all great experience. One of the projects that started in that time, with Center Director Steve Mrozowski, was the investigation of the site of Sylvester Manor in New York, with rare intact remains of a provisioning plantation dating to the 17th century. When I decided to go on to a Ph.D. program, I knew that I wanted to continue to work on this site. Little did I realize that I would spend the next five years shuttling from Berkeley, California to the northeast and back! At Berkeley, I was able to both explore my theoretical interests in identity and materiality, as well as learn a new set of methods, including chemical composition and optical petrographic studies of ceramics. Our results to date are published in a special issue of Northeast Historical Archaeology (2007), “The Historical Archaeology of Sylvester Manor."
Having hopped back and forth between east and west coasts for this long, my husband John and I are happy to be stopping to spend time in the “middle." While I plan to continue my work in the Northeast, and start up new projects there and in the Caribbean, I am most intrigued with the archaeology of Minnesota itself and the exciting array of perspectives the faculty at the University of Minnesota offers. I hope to bring my research interests to bear here in the coming years.