After five weeks of sleeping outside, waking up at the crack of dawn and going to bed at sundown, retuning to life in Seattle was very weird at first. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way!). My sleep pattern very quickly reverted to my late-night schedule and one of the first things I did (after dumping all of my camping gear onto my bedroom floor) was sink into my couch and turn on the TV. Home sweet home. While my camping habits fell away very quickly, the lessons and skills I learned while at field school will stay with me for a long time.
I learned how to set up and operate a total station, and while I may need a brief refresher on it in the future or may need to follow slightly different procedures on different machine models, I understand the theory behind how the total station works and how it collects data. Our in-depth training and work shopping with the field equipment is something that not all field school students get. I will not need extensive training or to be taught the theory behind how the machine works which I find to be incredibly valuable know-how. During our project I learned to orient the total station in terms of North-South, East-West, take points on an X-Y grid, how to shoot the laser beam from the total station at the prism, and the delicate task of holding the prism level (your ab muscles are the key!).
I also got to observe how to interact with communities directly connected to the area in which we were doing research, an experience which I think will have a strong hand in shaping my future professional growth. Almost daily we had members of the community stopping by the schoolhouse site as well as at our camp site; occurrences that made me realize how visible we were to the public and how much our work mattered to everyone. Explaining to people what it was that we were doing helped to keep the public informed and engaged in the work being done as well as reaffirmed my own understanding of the project. The overall response to our field school was very positive, and I am thankful for the support we received from the CTGR community.
I encourage anyone who thinks that they may be interested in archaeology to pursue a field school experience. You learn the good as well as the difficult aspects of pursuing archaeological research. You learn how to problem solve when difficulties arise, and you learn which parts of the work you love and which parts you absolutely can’t stand (for me, I don’t want to screen another bucket of dirt for a very long time which is problematic for obvious reasons). A hands-on style is really the best way to learn, and that’s something you can’t get from a textbook. If anyone is looking to pursue a field school in the future, this is definitely one to look out for!