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Daily Life of a CRM Archaeologist: The Two Horses


Every year eager college students sit in their archaeology class dreaming about their career in Culture Resource Management that is about to start. They romanticize about all the amazing places archaeology is going to take them. I mean, who knows, they could be the next Howard Carter and make some revolutionary scientific discovery, right? As the archaeology professor delivers the final lectures, they feel they are ready to start their career. I know, because I was one of those many college students. Let me be clear, throughout my time in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) I have had some amazing experiences, met some lifelong friends, and gone to some amazing places. However, it is a running joke with my friends that CRM is great 20% of the time and miserable 80% of the time, and just when you think you are finished, you get sucked back in. To honestly portray what an average day is in the life of a CRM Archaeologist, I decided to pick a random day and write down exactly what happened. Here is an average day:

Suddenly an annoying buzz fills the room. I struggle to open my eyes only to see that it is 5:00am. It is only the third day of a ten-day rotation and waking up is already difficult. After another forty minutes of eating breakfast and getting ready, I get into the work truck and began driving to the project area. Fifteen minutes later, I found myself down a dirt road. Every couple of seconds my body shakes; turns out pot holes affect more than just the trucks suspension. The pot holes disappear as the truck begins to slide into what looks like mud. Finally, I arrive in the project area, and today it happens to be a dairy farm. As soon as the truck is parked, I feel relieved. The past two days were spent pushing through dense, tall vegetation, so a day in an open cow pasture was welcomed. With a feeling of contentment, I reach down and open the truck door. Immediately, my senses are overwhelmed with the smell of cow manure. My boot reaches the ground, and instantly the brown mud transforms into a brownish green paste. Oh, no… that’s not mud… it’s the cow manure that overwhelmed my senses.

Accepting my fate, I grabbed my shovel and walked over to meet my partner and the rest of the crew. The area that we were told to survey that day was directly south of the cow’s feeding area. We began walking to the field, and with every step the brownish green paste got deeper. Suddenly when the manure consumed half of our boots, someone yelled from behind us. We all quickly turned around and noticed a farm worker near the feeding area. He repeated, “where are you going?!”

“To survey in that field!,” we replied.

With laughter in his voice he said “you’ll be up to your neck in caca.” Not wanting to test the validity of that statement, we immediately turned around and started back to the trucks. As we were walking, the farm worker motioned for us to come over and he separated part of a barbed wire fence and let us into a field just north of the feeding area. Looking stupid in front of one of the farm workers was worth not being submerged in cow manure.

While I got my bearing in the new field, two horses sprung up from the ground about 100 meters away. One of the horses was a beautiful brown horse with black hair and the other was a gray horse, that limped around as the brown horse trotted. Immediately, feelings of empathy filled my body, the handicapped gray horse was the most adorable animal I had ever seen. My partner and I started walking to our first shovel test, and even though it was an open field, it was a mine field. There were cow patties everywhere, and every step required calculated precision. After a stressful couple of minutes, we made it to our shovel test. With a violent force I slammed the shovel into the ground and with accuracy I pulled soil out in perfect 10cm levels, or at least something resembling 10cm levels. While I was putting soil into my partner’s screen, I noticed in the corner of my eye the two horses making their way to us, one trotting and one limping. Before we realized it, they were right beside us, and awkwardly they stared at us. Unbeknownst to me, before the horses showed up at our shovel test, my partner was uncomfortable around horses. As my partner began to become physically uncomfortable, they asked me to get the horses to leave. Being from Kentucky, I guess my partner expected me to be an expert in all things horse. However, I must have skipped that class in school because I was as clueless as they were.

After a couple minutes of trying every weird noise I could to get the horses to leave, they must have decided that they were bored and they left. Life went back to normal and we finished our shovel test and began the walk to the next. While we were walking, we noticed the horses had made their way to the other team in the field. With a shameless smirk, my partner said “looks like they are their problem now.” Expecting the other team to be uncomfortable around horses also, my partner continued walking. Once we arrived at the next shovel test, I began laying the tarp out to screen over it and suddenly I heard my partner say, “What?! They’re feeding them??” Instantly I look up and it was true, they had made friends with the horses. The next five minutes were filled with the team petting the horses and giving away all their snacks.

Although my partner did not approve, they were happy that the horses weren’t bothering us. As we continued excavating shovel tests, we constantly looked over at the other team to watch the magical friendship that had developed between the horses and the team. At one point, it even looked like they were playing fetch with the gray horse. Near the end of the work day, as we were walking to one of our last shovel tests, my partner’s worst nightmare happened again. We noticed that the horses were slowly getting closer to us, appearing like a scene in a horror film where every time the main characters look over their shoulders, the monster following them is getting closer. Before we knew it, the horses were back, and this time with expectations. You see, the horses had become accustomed to the way the other team treated them, and they thought they deserved the same from us.

While excavating the last shovel test of the day, I had an eerie feeling that someone was directly behind me. Like a reflex, I turned around to see the brown horse almost close enough to kiss me. Trying to ignore the horse so that it would leave, I attempted to keep working, but the horse would not move. After a few seconds, which felt like minutes, the horse finally backed off. As I continued excavating, the horse began sniffing our back-dirt pile. Then, out of the blue, he attempted to pick our screen up with his mouth. Instantly I called him down, and he started to walk away, startled. A few seconds later, he tried again. With more sternness in my voice, I called him down again. This time I appeared to startle him enough that he began walking past me. Thinking that the horses were going to leave us alone now, I continued excavating my shovel test. Suddenly, my partner started yelling, and as I quickly turned around, I saw the horse grab my bag with his teeth and he launched it approximately five yards down the field. With an astonished look on my face, I attempted to somehow stop the bag from flying. However, I was unsuccessful and the horses trotted off like they had taught someone an important lesson. As I gathered my stuff spread out across the field, I was just relieved that the day was coming to an end. Although we didn’t discover anything but disturbed soils filled with plastic, and animals with attitude problems, the day ending meant I was one day closer to the rotation being over.


Revised By: Solomon Whitaker

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