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Mesoamerican Exceptionalism and the Archaeology of the Less Than

A plug for Ken Burkett, the 2022 Winner of the SAA Crabtree Award, given to recognize significant contributions to archaeology in the Americas made by an individual who has had little if any formal training in archaeology and little if any wage or salary as an archaeologist.  Folks like Ken are doing the work research universities should be doing but aren’t.

Archaeology is an anthropology of usually dead peoples using systematic and often scientific processes to explore their material culture and the environment in which they lived.  Archaeology at its best is a thought experiment in trying to tell a history of a peoples without written history or without the benefit of talking to them directly.  It is unique among the humanities and sciences in this pursuit.

At the end of March, I took an opportunity to attend the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meetings, this year in Chicago, and the first in-person meetings in 3 years.  Like many attendees, I felt that I had been left in a tin can for 2 years and had miraculously been released.  Seeing human beings without the intervening screen was simply wonderful.

Having retired from PennDOT for over 3 years, and barely able to call myself an archaeologist, I still felt it was important to try to take the pulse of the profession. This was in order to better serve the membership of the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council, for which I am current president.  That called for heavy listening.  Although rusty, I think I was able to get an injection of zeitgeist.  Two observations emerged.  

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