The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Experience: By Amanda Telep

IUP students ventured to the windy city, Chicago Illinois, last weekend to attend the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) annual conference. The city itself was captivating in addition to the many festivities of the SAA event. “We’re a long way from Indiana” was a constant thought as we walked the streets surrounded by skyscrapers and big city noises such as the Chicago “L” passing overhead. We took in the city as we enjoyed our deep-dish pizza and our Portillo’s cake shakes, paying a visit to the famous Bean.

This year the SAA conference was hosted by the Hilton Chicago Hotel, a beautiful venue with a fantastic grand ballroom and lobby area. The SAAs are an event where archaeologists gather from around the world to present their research and to absorb the research of others. Additionally, the event is a great way to reconnect with past and future colleagues. The SAAs host varying symposiums and presentations as well as forums where archaeologists can discuss research or current developments in the field of archaeology as it is constantly evolving as a discipline. In addition to these forums and such, there was an Exhibit Hall that housed varying institutions, companies and individuals that sell an array of publications, equipment, programs etc. One such exhibition, Bone Boss Tools, was selling beautifully handcrafted excavation tools for fragile materials. Overall, the SAAs are a grand playground for your friendly neighborhood archaeologist.

IUP students and faculty presented their current research which included faculty member, Dr. Ben Ford’s research on the Newport village site. He presented a poster on his interpretations of an earth berm possibly being a remnant feature of a chute for loading iron ore into river boats revealed from recent archaeological survey at the site. IUP also participated in the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) expo, sponsored by the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA), to display our highly rated (top three for Registered Professional Archaeologists) program to prospective students interested in an Applied Archaeology program.

IUP students also participated in the Ethics Bowl Tournament that they have been diligently preparing for over the past several weeks. Our team did an amazing job demonstrating their knowledge of ethical principles of the SAA and adjoining principles of archaeological practice. As members of a professional organization, members of the SAA are guided by ethical principles outlined by the SAA code of ethics. All the teams that participated were highly skilled in their ability to articulate a well-prepared resolution to the proposed ethical dilemmas presented in the tournament. The competition was fierce, but IUP successfully won their first round, which brought them to the semi-finals. They ultimately did not take home the bowl but left emboldened to try again next year for a second shot at the title.

Reflecting on the conference and having had discussions with my fellow cohort members who also attended, there was a consensus that it was a valuable and privileged experience to have been able to participate in the conversations posed at some forums. Conversations regarding the issues that women in archaeology are exposed to was enlightening and posed hopeful sentiment for the future of archaeology towards a more inclusive discipline. I look forward to seeing future action in this subject area.

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