Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The 73rd annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference took place Oct 26-29 in Athens, GA. I had the great privilege to attend and present a paper on our St. Augustine Archaeology Pub Crawls. When I got back, I talked with Megan about the experience.

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Megan: What did you expect in attending SEAC 2016?

Emily Jane: I expected to hear some great research, catch up with friends and colleagues from throughout the southeast and maybe do a little sight-seeing while in Georgia.

M: What did you hope to get out of it?

EJ: I was hoping to network with archaeologists in Georgia and other close states. At FPAN, we're definitely focused on Florida but we do have to remember that the state line is a pretty recent invention. Many of the cultures we study moved past this line -- and many of the issues we're dealing with do as well, from legislation harmful to archaeology to sea level rise and coastal erosion. I was hoping to chat with folks about how they're working on these issues.

M: What did you actually learn?

EJ: I was amazed at the archaeology in South Florida. Funny that I go to Georgia to foster a new appreciation for Florida sites, huh?! Several papers in the "Ancient Water Worlds: The Role of Dwelling and Traveling in the Southeastern Archaeological Record" symposium detailed the monumental shell architecture of Florida's southern residents. I didn't really realize just how impressive these sites were until now.

M: What was the hardest past of attending SEAC?

EJ: The hardest thing this year was choosing what to do! Many of the sessions I was interested in were scheduled at the same time so I had some big choices to make. Do I go to a session on consulting with Tribes or one on regulatory archaeology? And then I couldn't make it to the lightning session organized by fellow FPANers because I was presenting during the Public Archaeology and Education session scheduled at the same time.

M: What from this SEAC will you bring back to the public for their benefit?

EJ: Well, a literal answer for this question - I talked with several archaeologists who have done work in Florida and hope to bring them in to speak at events next year so the public can hear about their work. But, less tangible terms, I hope to become a better advocate for archaeological resources in Florida. We've had conversations at several conferences recently about how legislation and regulation affect archaeology. At SEAC, I realized that Florida is one of the only states in the Southeast that has a statute to protect archaeological resources on state property or affected by state-funded projects. I hope to do more to bring raise public awareness about these laws. Both so Floridians understand and appreciate the protection that we give archaeological sites but also to get them out to visit and enjoy the resources. That's why they're protected in the first place - so everyone can enjoy them.

M: What sessions or activities did you take part in?

EJ: I presented in the general Public Archaeology and Education session. I went to sessions on: environmental studies and climate change, Florida's watery landscapes, state and federal regulations on archaeology, and shell middens. I also checked out some posters and jumped around other sessions to hear papers of interest. And I took a stroll in one of the historic cemeteries in Athens, of course!

M: Anything that surprised you?

EJ: This year's SEAC was the biggest ever! Registration was over 700 people. There were eight concurrent rooms of papers on Thursday and Friday, plus poster sessions. And there were four sessions on Saturday that lasted all day. It was great to see such a turn out - and to hear about such diverse and wonderful archaeology.

M: Got plans for next year's conference?

EJ: I do! I'm excited because it will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I've never been out west (to someone who hasn't crossed the Mississippi, this is indeed "out west!").  I look forward to seeing some of the amazing archaeological sites out there, like Spiro Mound. I also hope a lot of the conversations on shoreline changes, regulations, tribal consultations and public archaeology continue into next year's conference.

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For more information about the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, including next year's meeting, check out their website.

Words and text by Emily Jane Murray and Megan Liebold, FPAN staff.

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