Dialogue with the Mystery Anthropologist

One of my favorite remembrances is the dialogue of my old friend RWR. Every so often when I’m driving back or slipping into my Friday Beer stupor, I remember these disconnected parts of that life. Anthropology was a very rich and wonderful passion. Technology is just a job or perhaps its more at discrete moments. Anthropology was always more. I guess because it brings life to vivid reality and its a way of thinking about the world. Once you gain the insight, you really don’t lose it no matter what you do after. I have one friend kept all these years that is a physical anthropologist. Skilled at interpreting small little bones and assigning their sex, age, and what may have happened to them. But this is more about things which I remember RWR telling about things. Maybe you will find a kernel of truth in them too so I share:

1. Always remember where you are and where you are going. The best advice I ever got. I used to get lost and I still do. I’ve felt lost the last few years at various times then I remember what Roger told me before. Its meant the difference to a life of never really knowing the direction or the pace.

2. Keep the sidewalls straight! In archeology, we dig these holes in the ground that are so many meters by so many meters. As you dig down in 10cm levels, the unit has a way of telescoping smaller and smaller until you are not sampling the same size at 50cm as at 10cm. Dangerous because you are missing a sample. In a human burial once it meant the difference between rescuing the remainder of the skeletal mass. Would have been lost in a bulldozer attack later on.

3. Warm Beer is Good if that’s all you have. Well, what can I say about this one? In many situations, its all we had and it tasted damn fine. After a day of digging in 125 degree heat it really did not matter whether the beer was cold then and there. In all honesty though, RWR knew these spots where we would all go, strip naked and go bathing. All of us. Men, women. Stripped to the skin and cavorting! The beer would be chilling in in the water too. Soon we’d be done and dress get the ice cold beer out and begin cooking some kind of crazy stew with peaches, spam, potatoes, piece of apple. Whatever.

4. There is nothing like food when you’re hungry! Another RWR statement which goes way beyond food and being hungry. It speaks to what archeologists really like to do when you combine it “there is nothing like beer when you’re thirsty” or “nothing like water when you’re thirsty”. Its more a statement of how we all lived. Lived and waited to the end of the day in the Pizza place with pitchers of beer for thirst and pizza for hunger. Sitting around, telling stories about the day in the desert.

Whatever happened to those days? The memories silently fade away and perhaps become archeological treasures of their own. I dig them up and tell my daughter on occasion when she asks. She says things to me like:

Tell me another story about Uncle Rog.

And then off I go. Its another world of desert sunscapes and rattle snakes and little blue jeeps that could. Its RWR driving with 10 people in the back of the jeep laughing, somewhat scared. Its getting the jeep stuck in a dry creek bed. Its laughing hysterically at another archeologist attempting to smuggle beer into a conference where the sign clearly says “do not bring in food or beverages from the outside” and he jingles as the beer bottles all hit each other.

My daughter has also said things like:

Tell me the most exciting thing you ever dug up

And that’s a tough one. For a long time she thought it would be golden monkey heads. Wait a minute! RWR used to tell new students that. He used to say the very next thing we dig up out there will be the famed golden monkey head.

Then I laugh and vicariously relive another decade and life. Technology is so nothing compared to anthropology’s something. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology and what it brings to people. I’m just not a cowboy of science like I was once.