Last weekend, March 9-12 was the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference held in Ocean City, Maryland. I was able to attend amazing sessions, panels, and student events and this was the first archaeology conference that I have presented at which was a great accomplishment as well. I arrived bright and early on Friday to attend a session on the Archaeology of Schools and Education in the Mid-Atlantic. This session included presentations on marbles and writing slates and how they can be analyzed to understand what students were learning and how they were learning it. There was also a brilliant presentation on the way we talk about Black schools and education. The presenter showed examples of exhibits and written reports that devalue black intelligence and education by not exploring what they were taught thoroughly and frankly being lazy when analyzing artifacts related to black schools.
The second session of the day was entitled Archaeology of and for Native Peoples of the Mid-Atlantic. The papers in these sessions included a comparative analysis of projectile points from three sites around the same area in Maryland and a look into a middle woodland site in Delaware that was found during compliance for a road widening. There was also a very entertaining talk about cupules, which I have never heard of, that were found on the Roanoke River by archaeologists who were kayaking in the area. Cupules are depressions in rock that resemble an inverse spherical cap or dome and in this instance might be a marker from the indigenous groups of the region.
The final session of the day was Case Studies in Community-Based Archaeology which was fascinating and definitely inspired me for future community-based projects that I will help organize. There were too many good papers to list and I am amazed at how much Mid-Atlantic archaeologists have taken communities into account during their projects. Collaboration and communication with stakeholders were big themes at this conference. I am excited to see how these themes grow in the next few years as community archaeology becomes the norm.
There were also a lot of great student committee events that I was able to participate in all weekend. The first was a networking event where professionals sat at round tables and each group of students circled around to each person to learn more about their careers and how they became professional archaeologists. This was a great event to meet people that you could then find later to network with. There was also a coffee hour and “archaeolympics” which was a series of archaeology activities that allowed students to talk with each other and talk about their experience in archaeology and career plans. These were great events that really helped build connections as you met a lot of people.
This year’s plenary, or keynote, speaker was Dr. Alexandra Jones, founder of archaeology in the community. She holds many positions in a variety of archaeological and cultural resource management environments but she mainly focused on her work bringing archaeology to D.C. and surrounding communities. Her central theme was her effort to bring sustainable archaeology into her practice as a way to empower different communities. She cites her work at the Estate Little Princes Archaeological Project in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands as a way that she could try this method in an isolated environment. She runs a field school where previous year’s participants are paid crew chiefs and TAs and she ensures that they all have a say in what happens to their cultural resources. Sustainable archaeology is one of the best ways of ensuring we have meaningful connections with our community partners where they benefit as much as we do. It was clear from the rousing applause and many questions, that the other members of the conference were just as excited about this idea as she was.
The rest of the conference passed in a blur and I heard some amazing presentations and discussions in panels that really made me think about the future of archaeology and where I could fit in. Conferences are great because they make people feel connected to other researchers in a visceral way and can help produce new and amazing ideas through sharing different approaches and methods. I know I am brimming with a new appreciation for Middle-Atlantic archaeology and I am looking forward to next year!