As 2016 vanishes into the aether like a monitor lizard slipping into the waters of Lumpini Park, it is time to reflect on the last year at Bone Broke.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll just leave this here.
When thinking back on on my past year of blogging, I realized that I haven’t published as many posts as I have in the past. This is largely due to the number of important professional transformations that have characterized this year: New degree! New job! Same unlimited capacity for Pop-tarts!
For me the most important achievement of 2016 is obvious: successfully making khachapuri.
No, actually it was getting my PhD, the culmination of 7 years of equal parts hard work, mentorship, repressed impostor syndrome, and Pop-tarts. The year started with a series of smaller milestones, beginning with the publication of my pre-doctoral research in American Antiquity in January – if you’re into Z-scores, skeletal representation, and groan-inducingly punny titles, it’s worth a read. In April I attended the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Orlando, giving a talk on my Spanish research in a session organized by Katy Meyers-Emery of Bones Don’t Lie fame. Probably the most memorable part of the conference was being publicly chastised by discussant Lynne Goldstein for making my graph bars too light – fortunately she liked the rest of the paper.
I followed up my stint in Orlando with a direct flight to Atlanta to attend the 2016 American Association of Physical Anthropologists meetings, presenting a poster co-authored by Marta Díaz Zorita-Bonilla on the isotopic results of my dissertation research at Marroquíes Bajos. In Atlanta I also attended my first meeting of the Dental Anthropology Association, a fabulous opportunity to nerd out with fellow researchers interested in human teeth. By May, I had submitted my complete dissertation to my committee, and my defense took place on June 03, 2016. At around this point in time I announced my plans for the 2016/2017 academic year – acting as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, a position that allows me to to teach a graduate seminar while working on my own research.
About a month after moving to Pittsburgh I sat down and thought about the strategies that had proved most useful when writing my dissertation, assessed my advice, realized there weren’t enough cats, and so produced my Top Ten Dissertation Writing Tips (as illustrated by cats). In late September, Katherine Kinkopf and I received word that our paper on bioarchaeological approaches to looting had been accepted in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. In the chaos surrounding my dissertation defense, I had also forgotten to publicize an article in Open Archaeology that came out in May. This first article was co-authored with Colin Quinn, and describes how mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology can be used to examine the emergence of inequality in past societies. Accordingly, to remedy my forgetfulness, I published a post in early November describing the topic of both papers and providing links to pdfs.
I didn’t post on the blog about outreach in 2016, but I was involved with a great NSF-funded program at the University of Michigan Ruthven Museum of Natural History called “Portal to the Public.” The program targeted graduate students who wanted to conduct science communication outreach, using two workshops – “How People Learn” and “Prototyping Your Activity” – which provided us with some background in how to engage museum visitors, particularly kids. I designed an activity called “Solving Puzzles Made of Bone,” that tasked participants with sorting and re-articulating various kinds of brightly colored animal bones. After presenting at two Museum Days – Time Discovery Day! in March, and the “Scientist Spotlight” in May – I received my official Science Communication Fellow certificate on May 22.
Osteology and Anatomy
On July 19, I got all four of my wisdom teeth removed, a surgery I have been putting off for several years now. I was administered nitrous oxide and a a local anesthetic rather than going under. All told it was an interesting, albeit terrifying experience, in which I was able to hear the dentist drilling and snapping my lower third molars into quarters before forcibly tugging them out of my mandible.
If you ask, the dentist will give your extracted teeth to you post-surgery. When I eamined my teeth the necessity of removal was underscored by the fact that they had calculus on them, prompting a cascade of emotions in which my bioarchaeologist side vied with the side of me that hopes to be a reasonably hygenic person – “gross! cool! gross! neat! gross! fascinating!” Either way, the experience prompted a bioarchaeology vocab post on the phenomenon of calculus.
Osteology Everywhere and Bone Quizzes
2016 was a year filled with constant movement, beginning in Thailand in January, returning to Michigan, then visiting Orlando, Atlanta, Maine, Iceland, Pennsylvania, New York, Hungary, Romania, and Laos over the course of the year, before ending, once again, in Thailand. As is my wont, I’ve seen osteology everywhere over the course of my travels, beginning with an elephant statue at Asiatique in Bangkok, where, I’ll admit, the osteology angle was pretty obvious.
After my return to Ann Arbor, I found a hamate in my beer at Good Time Charley’s, an establishment which I now miss due in part, I suspect, to the happy haze of nostalgia that surrounds much of my time in grad school. I also spotted a lunate in a little lithic in the Africa range in the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, and a fossil femur in a tree root while hiking in Dexter. I arrived at the conference hotel at the AAPAs in Atlanta in April to find that the entire building had a highly anatomical architecture, and also spotted a sushi navicular at a nearby food court. In June, when visiting my external committe member in the Department of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, I discovered a dens in a recovered meteorite (though it turns out that most people see a hamate). Finally, when visiting Maine just after defending my dissertation, I stumbled upon a set of intriguing faunal remains that I asked you all to identify when assigning my first zooarchaeological bone quiz – Bone Quiz 21.
As part of the ongoing saga first documented in 2014, this past year I also retrieved a (now skeletonized) bear paw from its resting place in a kindly faculty member’s backyard. After a stint macerating in a friend’s shed, it is currently ensconced in my freezer, waiting for me to finish prepping it. One of my goals for 2017 is to move on to the next stage of the process.
Archaeological posts of 2016 fall into a miscellaneous grab-bag of categories. In January, I participated in a blogging carnival focused on outlining the “grand challenges for archaeology,” in which I highlighted the staggering lack of diversity in our discipline. In September, I promoted my friend and colleague Emily Holt’s fundraising campaign to start a video journal of archaeology called Dirt & Words – an endeavour that I am happy to report was successfully crowdfunded! In mid-December, I described some of the pilot fieldwork I conducted in Romania back in October, laying the groundwork for a bioarchaeology and mortuary research project that begins this summer. Finally, I ended the year true to form, by snarkily evaluating the the accuracy of the archaeology portrayed in the movie Suicide Squad.
All in all 2016 has been an eventful year, full of challenges, changes, and exciting new developments. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2017.
So Happy New Year everyone! May you greet the new year with all of the enthusiasm and optimism of a white-lipped pit viper balancing on the end of a small stick.