Paul Tamburro's Experience at the SHA Conference

February 24, 2020

As an Archaeology concentrator considering further graduate studies, it was really exciting to participate in the 2020 Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Boston. I gave a short presentation at a forum on the Harvard Yard Archaeology Project and also had the opportunity to discuss the dig with visitors to the Peabody Museum’s “Digging Veritas” exhibit during an evening reception. Both experiences were very informative for my academic and professional development. At the reception, I learned how to succinctly present the projects’ aims and finds. At the same time, I got to meet historical archaeologists from a range of backgrounds and hear about their different careers. For the forum presentation, I worked hard to prepare the 2016 site report and summarize the results into brief key points. I also learned about other aspects of the project, and it was especially interesting to meet and hear from scholars like John Stubbs, who have been involved with the archaeology of Harvard Yard for decades.

Outside of my own presentations, the conference helped me gain a better sense of the diverse research topics a historical archaeologist might pursue, as well as some of the key theoretical debates and “revolutions” (the theme of the conference) in archaeology. A keynote address on the opening night about the importance of working towards an antiracist archaeology encouraged me to think more critically about theoretical biases. I also had the opportunity to attend sessions on fascinating topics such as Civil War archaeology, archaeology at Mount Vernon, and even material analyses of 19th century whale ships. Moreover, I was very excited to hear several papers about historical archaeology in Connecticut, my home state. One project at a 17th century house site in a town very near my home especially piqued my interest, and as a result, I am thinking of volunteering with the office of the Connecticut State Archaeologist.

Overall, the conference provided an opportunity for me to refine my own academic and public speaking skills while learning more about career paths in archaeology. While I do not think I will pursue historical archaeology long term, this experience helped me think about the range of research topics available and possible ways to gain more excavation experience. I am very grateful to the Anthropology department for generously funding my participation and look forward to attending similar conferences in the future.