By Ashley Lemke
Every year the ACUA runs elections Board of Directors positions, in January 2017, Brian Jordan and myself were elected. As a new member to the ACUA, I wanted to take this opportunity on Deep Thoughts to introduce myself.
I started out as a student who was interested in classical archaeology, so I left my home state of Washington and transferred to the University of Texas (Austin) for my B.A. degree. While studying ancient Greek and classical archaeology – I became more and more fascinated by my Anthropology classes. Learning about diverse cultures, languages, and the long history of human evolution and biology captured me. I also had the opportunity as an undergraduate to excavate at a 12,000 year old hunter-gatherer archaeological site, the Gault site in Texas. After just one day of digging – my interests shifted and were locked into exploring hunters and gatherers – societies without agriculture.
After graduation, I was invited to go on an offshore, underwater archaeological project in the Gulf of Mexico – to explore submerged landscapes that would have been dry land around the same time Gault was occupied, 12,00 years ago. Participating in this project introduced me to underwater archaeology, as well as the specialized technologies and techniques used to explore the past underwater. I gained experience with remote operated vehicles (ROVs), side scan sonar, and subbottom profiling.
These experiences with both terrestrial and underwater archaeology shaped my research interests even further as I went to the University of Michigan for my Masters and Ph.D. During my time at Michigan I worked on terrestrial projects in New Mexico, Texas, Michigan, Romania, Spain, and Germany but most importantly – I was introduced to a underwater archaeological project in the Great Lakes, investigating 9,000 year old hunter-gatherers sites submerged beneath Lake Huron. My dissertation titled, Anthropological Archaeology Underwater: Hunting Architecture and Foraging Lifeways beneath the Great Lakes explores how to do archaeology underwater the same way we would do on land – to ask bigger questions about the human past and cultures different from our own.
As an ACUA Board member, I can bring this experience in submerged prehistoric archaeology to broaden our definition of the types of sites that can be found and explored underwater. My research is continuing in the Great Lakes, and I am starting new projects exploring prehistoric underwater sites in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.
I am extremely passionate about public outreach and the conservation of submerged archaeological sites. Until we know the full range of cultural materials that have been preserved underwater – we cannot protect them all. I am very excited to be a part of the ACUA and to help in any way I can to fulfill their goals.