GSA Day ii

Desert soils, the homes of the Hohokam, and the GSA Kick Off

Ok, I know I’m already a couple days behind. It’s been so hectic! I’m writing from the GSA Coffee Break area, at a table with a bunch of other geos reviewing for presentations, answering emails, and in some cases just chatting. I’m going to try to catch up tomorrow after the isotope geochem exam (fun times…), but we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, you can follow #blogoftheladygeos on Instagram for a slightly more up to date LadyGeo experience.

After a day learning the dark arts of OSL/IRSL, it was time to get back to my first love: landscapes and the people who live(d) on them. The geoarchaeology field trip was a full day baking in the sun while we thought about floodplain dynamics, desert soils, and the people who irrigated the desert that would eventually become Phoenix.

Panoramic photo of canal berms and beds in Park of the Four Waters
Park of the Four Waters
Imagine the space between the berms filled with water to irrigate the desert… incredible

I’ll probably wax a little more poetic about all this in my big GSA wrap up/take away post (look for that sometime next week), but the field trip was an excellent reminder of why I love geoarchaeology and archaeology itself.

It sounds cheesy, but I genuinely love people. I’m fascinated by humans and the human experience, by the incredible breadth and depth of it. I’m always interested in learning the how and why of people’s lifeways; the personal, the societal, the landscape, all of it. Yes, the landscape is a piece of the human puzzle. The landscape you grew up in, even today, is imprinted on you; it is your first understanding of the world. For the first however long, it’s your whole world. People in the past are just as people as we are, and I love that I get to think about those people, their lives, and the landscape they inhabited.

Rather than giving you a play-by-play of the trip, here are a bunch of photos and some thoughts + quotes from my day.

Panoramic landscape photo of San Tan Mountain Regional Park
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
I wish I had a video of the sounds of this lush desert. It was beautiful.
Random Thoughts and Quotes
Photo of the field trip group standing around talking at Park of the Four Waters
That’s the City Archaeologist in the raisin shirt. Sadly, you cannot see her fab jewelry. You can, however, see one of the other local archaeologists doing the archaeological/geologic bee dance* Field trip leader 1/3 in blue, holding the clipboard.
*Bees dance to tell others where the pollen is, geologists/ archaeologists dance to show others where the rocks/stuff is)
  • Phoenix has a City Archaeologist, which I didn’t know was a thing.
    Might be one of my new goals. Have to see which other cities have city archaeologists… In any case, the City Archaeologist was great and wearing great jewelry, which I was heavily admiring while she talked to us about the platform mounds and Pueblo Grande.
  • Overall, I really appreciated the amount of jewelry and tattoos and good hats in the geoarch crew. It made me feel like there is more of a place for me with my love of jewelry and perfume no graduate student should own. I’ll probably come back to this particular topic later.
  • “They call them chahr-cohs and tin-ah-has”
    Being English/Spanish bilingual makes southwestern geoarchaeology (and a host of geologic terms for more western/desert-y places) kind of strange. A lot of the terms are Spanish words, but it (1) takes me a minute to realize what the heck the person is talking about, and (2) is strange to think of fairly general terms as technical terms that refer to something very specific (e.g., charco which is ‘pond’, but apparently means a very specific type of ponded water feature in the southwest).
  • “We’re all aware of what agave is and how it’s used, yeah? What…beverages might be made from it?” asks one of the trip leaders vaguely jokingly. “It’s tequila on the hoof” one of the older geoarchs helpfully supplied.
  • One of the archaeologists on the trip was a shovel bum when the Park of the Four Waters was being excavated in the late 1950s. This is pretty neat, and also a source of teasing from the trip leaders (I should mention that most of the old guy geoarchs and archs are kind of a scientific buddy group).
    “That’s a lot of dirt to move.” says one, looking a big water storage feature.
    “Yeah, and they didn’t even have Neely [1950’s shovel bum]!”, laughs another. “Well”, says a third, “it was the Late Classic period…”.
    Cue laughter from everyone, including Neely.
  • “Every time I see you, you’re wearing another layer” Tammy, of Minerval fame, teased me. She’s 100% right. The sun was no joke and I was determined not to get burned. Even if I had to look like a laundry pile to do it.
    Some grad friends once wondered if I wear lipstick in the field. I do not. But I do wear the biggest hat I can find!

The field trip wrapped up just in time to attend the GSA Kick Off event at the convention center. Sweaty and disheveled from a day in the sun, I got my free beverage and tried not to stand too close to anyone (I am quite certain I smelled bad).

Left: me sweaty, dirty, and unaware I should definitely have left my hat on with friends including Ángel and Ángel on the extreme right and third from the right. Middle: Thanks for the extra drink ticket Minervals! Right: a quick still of the performance. Super neat way to start GSA.

After a second free beverage (thanks to one of the Minervals), I started for the exit, thinking maybe I’d find my AirBnB buddy. However, I ran into Puerto Ricans and that became the rest of my night. After dinner and another beer Angel’s Trumpet*, I extracted myself and headed home to get some rest before GSA (actual) Day 1.

* This was the perfect place since both lead Puerto Ricans are named Ángel… “pa’ dónde vamos?” “Pa’ la trompeta ‘e Ángel!” “No vaciiiiilen, jajaj”

I arrived too late to hear the introduction (but did ask if I could film/photograph) and can’t find a name for the group, whether a dance troupe name or their tribal affiliation. Suffice it to say, the dancers were impressive, the headdresses were *beautiful* and it was a gorgeous (and thoughtful) way to officially start GSA 2019.
If you happen to know the name of this group or their tribal affiliation, please let me know!
And yes, that’s totally a baby asleep near the drum.

Delay Note: this is the last of the ‘daily’ posts.. They feel long and a bit unwieldy. Instead, I’ll be posting about a couple days at a time or maybe about the conference as a whole. Either way, expect those posts later this week and early next week.
And check back for posts by our guest poster, @breakerofglassceilings!

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