In 2018 I will approach my goals with the predatory enthusiasm of a lion stalking its prey in Nairobi National Park, rather than the sluggish determination of a snail forced to engage in slow-motion acrobatics due to lack of foresight, which is the vibe that has characterized my approach in 2017.
The reason that my year has passed in a befuddled haze of airports and train rides is because so much of the academic year has been spent on the road. Though I moved to Pittsburgh in August 2016 for my position as the 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, and technically lived in Pennsylvania through May 2017, I only spent 5.5 months in the city, and spent the other 3.5 months travelling. I travelled for fieldwork, conferences, job interviews, bioarchaeological research, and in order to see friends and visit family.
One of my goals for 2018 is thus to limit my travel and stay in one place for at least two months so that I can finally feel a bit settled, and possibly even get some academic work done. That said, I am writing this post from Zanzibar*, on a four-day New Year’s holiday after attending a friend’s wedding in Nairobi, planning to head back to the Cambridge for a week before going to Tübingen and Jena in Germany for six-days on a research trip to meet with collaborators. Even when I seek to avoid it, it seems that travel is determined to find me.
In spite of my hectic schedule, I still found time to get quite a bit done in 2017. My post count for this past year continues to pale in comparison to the 2014 and 2015 peak years of Bone Broke blogging, numbering only 22 posts including this annual recap. Even though post numbers are low, they still provide a good sense of what it is I have been up to academically.**
The 2017 accomplishment of which I am most proud was co-teaching my first graduate seminar with Liz Arkush, an undertaking that required an unanticipated immersion in Andean archaeology, much cajoling of recalcitrant students who did not want to respond to my thoughtful and stimulating prompts, and, of course, donuts.
In mid-winter, I also found out that I had made the grade for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Fellowship at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. Upon my arrival at the McDonald in October, I realized that I had landed in a wonderfully energetic and welcoming academic community which has 50+ post-docs in archaeology and biological anthropology alone. There are endless and fascinating lecture series that cover everything from contemporary debates in biological anthropology to isotopic analyses of mobility along the Roman-Hun frontier. Training and outreach are both components of my fellowship, so in late October I presented my research at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas with new friends and fellow MSCA post-docs Alexandra Ion and Laerke Recht, and in the first week of November I drank Yorkshire Tea for the first time while attending a workshop on entheseal changes at the University of Sheffield.
Oh, and as part of my new life in Cambridge, I also finally learned how to ride a bike.
At least a fraction of my travel in 2017 was related to conference attendance, beginning with the SAA meetings in Vancouver in early April, where I ate some truly spectacular food, visited the breathtaking UBC Museum of Anthropology, and presented my Iberian research in an eclectic and stimulating mortuary archaeology session. After my brief stint in the Canadian west, I headed to the AAPA meetings in New Orleans in mid-April, where I sampled beignets for the first time and also presented a poster on aging methods for subadult teeth. I closed out the year with a trip back to the U.S. in late November in order to attend my first ever AAA meetings, catching up with a number of old friends while marvelling at the scale of the conference.
Osteology Everywhere and Bioarchaeology Vocabulary
During all of my time on the road I indeed saw osteology everywhere, starting with some heliconia plants in Bangkok, Thailand. I spent a lot of time in New York State over the spring and summer, and in so doing documented iliac crests at both Storm King art center and in the Mohonk Preserve. During my second foray to my Romanian field site, I witnessed some excellent osteology art, in the midst of bouts of consumption of slanina and Jacobs coffee packets. After moving to the UK, I really did see osteology everywhere: on the London Tube, on Downing Street outside of my institute, and in the fiery coals of Thirsty Riverside’s Winter Garden. I also attempted to share my obsessive osteological attitude by writing Bioarchaeology Vocab posts on both Wolff’s Law and the Standard Anatomical Position.
2017 was an important year for getting my next archaeological project off of the ground. While I went to the field in October 2016 in order to map the site of Ramet, I only spent about 10 days in Transylvania. In July of 2017, I returned with the American component of the MARBAL team (Colin Quinn and Emilie Cobb) to rendezvous with Dr. Horia Ciugudean in Alba Iulia, and analyze a number of human skeletal remains from previously excavated Bronze Age sites in the region. Over the course of the summer we started a new blog, I outlined instructions for analyzing a prehistoric commingled burial, and I recounted a day in the life on the MARBAL project.
It has, all in all, been a busy year. I’m already looking forward to seeing where my archaeological peregrinations take me in 2018. In the mean time, a fellow guest at these bungalows wandered by and admonished me “I hope you do not do work!?”, so it seems like a sign from the universe telling me to take the rest of the year off (six hours and forty-five minutes in this time zone, at least). Wishing a happy and healthy new year to all readers!
* Zanzibar is beautiful, which is why I’m posting these photos, but because I’m first and foremost an anthropologist I also strongly encourage everyone to read the first section of Jamaica Kinkaid’s A Small Place when thinking about what it means to be a tourist in a colonial landscape.
** Besides eating Pop-Tarts.