Communicating Archaeology

The “hidden audience” that Allen describes is both similar and different from the audience of our cemetery project. Firstly, those engaged with the cemetery are generally families of very real and impoverished individuals, not abstract individuals with a hobby. However, it could be argued that both audiences must hold a certain passion to remain engaged with the subject. Allen claims that the hidden audience is not only organized and numerous, but also relatively rich. In regard to the hidden audience of archaeology, I do not believe that being rich is a substantial indicator of its enthusiasts. While it is admittedly beneficial, and often times even necessary, to pander to those with thicker wallets, including other “hidden audiences” in our addresses can also be beneficial. By other hidden audiences I mean those that are not as described by Allen, namely those without money. For example, there are likely poor individuals out there, or even very young ones, that access their archaeological readings through free internet content. Of course, this has likely only been possible in more recent years. Regardless, addressing all those who share a passion in archaeology can only help to solidify and strengthen its future.

I definitely do not usually see all of Allen’s 10 rules for addressing the hidden audience, especially not in articles I have read for other classes. Many articles or readings, while definitively educational, are not truly written for the casual or unfamiliar reader. For students, I believe this might be a little unavoidable. However, even writings that are a little too convoluted for those with a casual interest in archaeology could benefit from being more personal and to a certain degree, embellished. That isn’t to say that for a reading to be interesting it should be exaggerated and fantastical, but everyone enjoys an honest story. In most cases, it would make articles easier to read and easier to relate to. As a student who has now spent several years reading academic articles, I can attest to the fact that storytelling in writing is truly more engaging.

I think the best way to really engage the community is by telling the stories of interesting graves and grave offerings we find. Considering that most of us in the Rio Grande Valley are familiar with local occult practices, telling stories of the more spiritual offerings we have found could prove to catch the community’s interest. I think the best format in which to engage the community would be through social media. We live in an undeniably technological era so it only makes sense that we make the most of our environment. With that being said, I think it would also be beneficial to reach through newspapers so that we can also engage older generations that are still attached to traditional media. Specifically, getting our stories on the university’s Facebook page, or even creating our own Facebook page, could gather a good deal of attention. This may especially prove useful in the future, such as for the Dia de Los Muertos event that we hope to organize.

Communities and Stakeholders

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) includes stakeholders from different communities, requiring collaboration with various groups. The primary stakeholders in the HCPCP include the family members of those buried in the cemetery, as well as county officials who work with the cemetery and other community members. There are many diverse communities in the Rio Grande Valley, including ethnic communities, immigrant communities, and religious communities. Some of these communities also include the cemetery and individuals as members, as many individuals buried in the cemetery are Hispanic. We are also part of the communities we work with. In this project, we are all from the area, and each interact with different local communities, helping to inform a more diverse perspective on our research.

There are different sides to the involvement of cultural affiliation when conducting investigations. Cultural affiliation can be beneficial to understanding the cultural background and significance of the project. However, it can also influence the interpretations and perspectives of the project, and thus it is important to remain sensitive to the influence of culture, while remaining open to other views. When we work with certain communities, we may forget or neglect more diverse perspectives that could be achieved through working with different communities. Furthermore, certain individuals may also feel neglected. Finally, there are power dynamics involved amongst the communities with interest in the cemetery, such as the power of county officials compared to the family members and other community members involved.

Communicating Archeology


In the “Hidden Audience” by Allen (2002) he speaks of having a “worst nightmare critic”, a monster from with we all may or may not have. With this project I have more chances to explain our work through light conversions with friends, classmates, and family. When speaking about the objective of this project I have always received a positive response. I can say the same for the writing part of this course. We has a class are taking the risk of putting of thoughts out for all to see on our blog. In doing so I believe thanks to all our individual thoughts and creativeness we as a group create a place that the hidden audience from of one classmates response can find themselves creating a connection to an other individual writer.

Given that most of the pieces we have read for this class have been aimed for higher class of reader. The 10 rules Allen’s suggest are present but as student I sometimes feel as an outsider of the audience. Seeing how our class relates to some of the readings does give a closer look to what our blogs responses can become. Reading the advanced pieces gives us great step in the learning experience to know how others contextualizes their own projects.

As we continue this project we should be more expressive by possibly giving the students to express what it is the project means to them. By having one or two response available for this course without an advanced reading peice attached to it. Or maybe finding other readings that are done by students could lessen the gap between our responses and the more advanced Archaeologist. Having these readings have given some insights to Archaeological world but what has it done for the other individuals wanting to learn more about this project? This project is indeed has many components, an yet we have not been fully able to share them with outsiders of the project. Our readers should know how meaningful this project is. How we are giving names to individuals that have lost their identity’s due to possible weather corrosion on headstones. Finding information or locating individuals that had no headstone from the day they were laid to rest. How we have help individuals reconnect to family members graves they thought they would never find again.These are the stories the community understand and speak about with the members of this project.

Communicating Archaeology

Communicating archaeology is key when it comes to dealing with archaeology over all. Archaeology, even more so Public Archaeology is not possible without the people/community. In Mitch Allen’s article “In Public Benefits of Archaeology”, it is discussed how the public assists archaeology and the researchers within the project to make it strive.

The writings for archaeologists is different that what I am use to, exhibit A it is recommended to use I. My whole life of writing it has always been forbidden to write in my own point of view, and now it’s recommended which does take awhile to adjust to. However, it sends out a nice message that the writing is personal. I believe writing on a personal level definitely attracts readers. Writing on a personal level could be the hook that Allen writes about. Allen writes there are 10 ways to attract the audience, “1. Find a hook. 2. Tell a story. 3. Include yourself. 4. Write in plain English (or Spanish or Hopi). 5. Talk to a single reader. 6. Create memorable identifiers. 7. Use only the data you need. 8. Present data visually. 9. Emphasize theory and method. 10. Always think of your audience.” (Allen, 2002, p.248). Following these steps assures you will attract an audience into your writings.

First, one will always need to report the important information like the findings, before discussing the details. That way, the readers know everything you are discussing actually leads up to important findings. Explain the history behind your findings, and discuss why it is important to you as an author. This makes it more personal and real which attracts readers. This also ties into including yourself, which can also mean writing in first person. Writing in first person is something I have been told is something one must never do. Yet, here I am using the term I and it feels great to be able to make my writings on a more personal level. Even though Allen recommends writing in English or Spanish, I believe for our particular project it is important we release information in Spanish since the community is heavily Mexican, or Mexican-American. Also, most of the graves are of Mexican descent. As a writer we need to be able to reach out to a single reader, making them feel as our writings are specifically for them, because they are. We want to connect to each reader on a personal level. Adding photos to your writings, and especially blogs is a major bonus as well. I personally love to see one’s personal findings through images, it creates a more personal feel and helps the reader understand exactly what one is discussing.

The purpose of communicating all these ideas is to attract the readers and allowing them to engage in your writings. A major concept in Archaeology is attracting the public/ community. With the HCPCP with the help of the community we will be able to go further into our project as they can give us important information needed. Whether it is identifying unmarked graves, and even give us their history with the cemetery and their loved ones. We as future archaeologists will be able to understand on a more personal level as well, the history of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery and the individuals buried there.

Communicating Archaeology

Many people always ask me what is an anthropologist. I myself had asked that question before. Because of this, it appears that anthropologists have not fully grasped the attention of the media and people. Why is such profession unknown to be people if there is a lot of anthropologist and archaeologist that written articles and reports? There are even films about the work that has been done. This lack of awareness is most likely occurring because of the anthropologists’ research form of writing.

Looking back at my previous anthropological writings, I gasp at how dull and boring the work sounds. Yes, it has all the crazy anthropological vocabulary, but what is missing is a connection to myself. In fact, I was told to not input my own thoughts or opinion. I was even told to not write  “I” because it sounded unprofessional. The outcome came to be a dull, boring, detached paper that I myself will not want to read again.

Mitch Allen suggest that archaeologist should write to the “hidden audience” rather than the other scholars or critics (Allen: 247). With this, more people would begin to understand the archaeologist research and work outcome. It does seem very complex when reading some archeological works because of the language used and overly professional material structured. Even one who studies archaeology has difficulty comprehending the material and at times needs to be re-read in order to grasp the writer’s meanings and work. Therefore, Allen provided us 10 rules to apply: hook the audience, storytelling, put yourself in the writing, write in simple words, write like talking to someone, input memorable identifies, apply only needed data, be visual, emphasize theory and method, and always think of the audience. This method of writing is very different from what archeologist are used to. In fact, I have not read many articles that meet all the ten rules. One article that I can remember writing in simple words and putting herself constantly in the work, is Practising Archaeology-As if it Really Matters by K Anne Pyburn. Just reading her title, we start to see a connection,“As if it Really Matters,” because it gives an informal way of speaking. This informal vocabulary triggers the attention of others, making the audience want to read the paper for they want to know what she will say. Moreover, her style of writing is ethnographic which appears to be like a conversation and her personal response towards the reader. Such form of writing will be great when the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) collects all the data and starts to collect the outcome of the project. If the papers and presentations are written in the ethnographic style, not only will we get the attention of the audience but also the scholars. This will make it helpful for others to find the work interesting and want to read more or be part of the archaeological work. I always thought the whole point or writing in archaeology is for others scholars to read the work and get something out of it. Maybe they decide to pick up where the work left off, use it as references, figure out other questions and concerns that came out of the research or just enjoy the reading. Personally, I never enjoyed criticizing other people works. I always felt like; who am I to criticize this great hardworking archaeologist! But since it was mandatory, my critical response was always suggesting the writer be less wordy, more to the point, too much information, and difficult to understand. Aside from that, it was difficult to state that their work was wrong. To me, everyone seems to have a point in their work. Maybe some material is wrong, especially back in the days when archaeology was more racist. Moderately, everyone seems to give a valid statement if not within all the work, there is something to grasp from everyone’s research.

Now, through writing,  how can the HCPCP grasp the audience attention? I suggest that some of the HCPCP members should express their experience within the field work. Did they like working outside? How was the environment and weather around them? Was there any encounter of interest? Like a really exotic looking monument or the voodoo dolls lying around the cemetery. Of course, I really enjoy pictures, so by providing visuals, the readers can get a better understanding of what the writer experienced. If not able to provide visuals, the writer to use ethnographic writing to detailly express what they witnessed in the field. In truth, Peter Young suggest being a storyteller. For example, he states to make it existing like “ these were flutes that hadn’t been played for a thousand years (242).” The HCPCP can state how by looking at certain graves conditions one can infer how the departer grave has not been visited for many 10 years. Their names, probably already forgotten, had not been mentioned until we came along.  Even more, their once life existence had not been thought about until we read and placed within the data their grave marker information. I myself wondered who were these people when they were living and roaming the land. How was their lifestyle? What did they see and accomplished? Did they live a long life? Many did not live a long life, the HCPCP has a large of infant graves. Could their deaths be related? That is a question that can be asked when viewing the year of their departed. It is going to be an exciting experience when the fieldwork and lab work is fully completed. Then, the archaeologist can fully give a written piece. For now, we can write our personal experience in the field.

The whole point about writing is to give the information obtained from the research to the audience. They can use the information to find a relative, history about the site, connections to other cemeteries, cultural background and so forward. Through participation, my interest in the HCPCH research has been caught so I will continue to keep up to date with what the project will do next as well as the end results.

Communicating Archaeology

The “Hidden Audience” described by Allen (2002) is like writing to your biggest critic. In working on our project I feel as though we do not have a biggest critic, other than ourselves maybe. Our project is being conducted in such a positive and excited way that I do not think any of the members fear reaching a critic. Our “hidden audience” could be someone and it could be no one. It may even be people in academia. There is a fear in not sounding smart enough in front of a professor, professional, anyone who is knowledgeable in something you may not be. However, our project has received nothing but positivity from the audience it has reached. I feel our “hidden audience” may not be as hidden as we anticipate.

Next, I personally do not exactly see Allen’s 10 Rules applied to pieces I have read. A lot of articles that are assigned in my classes are written for a mature, educated audience. The articles will state many pieces of information that is likely not understandable to an individual that is not a part of the project. I have had a similar conversation with other students and they agreed that a lot of articles that are assigned are statistical and contains very strange math. However, there have been a few readings I have been assigned that were far easier to understand because it was written as a story. The author stated in the beginning of the story that it is often complicated for an anthropologist/ archaeologist to write their story and findings without sounding egocentric (thinking of oneself). With this information stated in the beginning, I was unaware of what to expect. The book was well-written and engaging. He explained his experiences while also focusing on the data he collected. I noticed that there are few articles or academic books that provide an insight as explained, but I found when they do the reading is far more easy to read and understand.

For our project, we should be telling positive stories of our time there and our discoveries. Usually, the second I tell an individual that I attend class at a cemetery it is automatically assumed I will be digging up bodies. Or awkwardly standing and observing the cemetery. We should tell stories that educate and provide a positive insight on what is being done at the cemetery. After I correct the individual on their preconceived notion I share with the, what the project is about and our short and long-term goals. I tell the individuals that on our very first day we ever went out to the cemetery to perform our work, the very first grave I came across happened to be an individual that died the same day and date, except 40 years prior. I tell the individuals about the offerings we find, or even the animal remains. I share these stories in ways they understand and relate to. I share the stories with such excitement and knowledge about what our project is about that they become informed of the cemetery now, or I am thought of from time-to-time when they stumble upon other cemetery research.

To whom we communicate to

Mitch Allen’s article introduced me into a better understanding of the type of audience archaeologists speak to and how those words are communicated to a much bigger audience. I’m sure this applies to all fields, because really, only we are the masters of our specialized field. Much of what we say can sound like jargon to the general population. As Allen says, “the general reading public forms the vast bulk of those casually interested in archaeological information.” Yet, the rest are from a “hidden” audience much more engaged in our commitment to express our scholarly knowledge. How we balance the two and reach our intended audience, is how Allen suggests his ten rules.

The audience described by Allen and to those we speak out to regarding the cemetery project are very similar. In a way I feel that we may get more interest from the general public, especially to those whom have been effected by our presence at the cemetery. They wonder what we are doing and why we are there. Why does each grave have a flag marker and a number. Why is the focus solely in one part of the entire cemetery and not the rest. These are some of the highlights that can hook a reader into wondering what exactly is the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project.

We should be explaining an introduction to the history of the cemetery, its previous name & meaning, location on the map, when it was built, how active it is and the range of people buried there (1800-1900’s). The history and purpose of utrgv students engaging with the community to help restore, is really the insight of the story. People can watch from afar and wonder what it is what we do on our phones, the pictures we take, measurements…

In the end we hope to have data restored and organized with a detailed 3D map, but really the beauty comes in all the hard work that it takes to get there and ultimately present a nicer picture to others. Often we see the end result but don’t take in the process and I think its interesting to share the ongoing work and commitment that represents the project. By providing facts, pictures,  blogs with a students voice and point of view, we can “talk in plain english”, and “to a single reader”. Others can be just as engaged and informed while leaving an open door to share their thoughts.
Pictures speak a thousand words and I think we can portray a lot with even pictures alone. Perhaps some unique graves, or interesting finds. Of course without disturbing or disrespecting anyone. The format we should be portraying is knowledgeable, ethical and reflective. For those who may not be far deep into archaeological interest can still read and be captured by our many means of communication and information that keeps them coming back for more. What I believe we hope to achieve as a group, is to get more people involved and informed through out the entire process so that we each may learn and grow for the benefit of the community/project. Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: one or more people, hat, grass, child, outdoor and nature

Spreading The Wonder Of Archaeology

In Mitch Allen’s article he talks about the “Hidden Audience” in Archaeological writing who are not so much fellow colleague’s or students but regular people who have at least some interest in Archaeological work. There are casual Archaeologist who buy and read Archaeology magazines who have money to spend and choose to spend it supporting Archaeologist. With our Cemetery project our “Hidden Audience” would be the community and family members of the deceased we identify. Both Allen’s and the Cemetery project’s hidden audience are similar in the sense that there is wonder amongst the community. Many of the people who come by the cemetery are relatives of one of the deceased we have identified and are seeking information on their ancestors who lived and died here as far back as a century ago. All kinds of people from different parts of the world have been here throughout the centuries and the chance that someone of German decent is buried in this cemetery would pique the interest of many people not just scholars and student and it’s this kind of work that makes this project and Archaeology in general so important. Allen’s 10 rules for Archaeological writers can be seen in many articles and books not just by Archaeology, Peter A. Youngs article The Archaeologist as Storyteller incorporates these rules by hooking us with the hype of Archaeology being spread through various outlets like T.V., telling the stories of the Archaeologist who wrote for the Left Coast Press and making it personal by adding his own experiences there and continues to incorporate every other rule.

For the Cemetery project I believe we should be telling the stories of what we have found. All the graves with intricate, basic, and lack of headstones we found are amazing because each one was a person who has walk this earth and had a story. In this project we found more than grave, we found mystical items all around the site that gives us a glimpse into a little bit of the darker side of the Borderland culture. Everything we find is so exciting and by sharing the experience through our own words and emotion will help spread these feeling of wonder, amazement, and curiosity to the readers.

Communicating Archaeology

The articles included in this theme were written by two editors – Mitch Allen (formerly of Left Coast Press) and Peter Young (Archaeology). As they both point out, archaeology is a field of study that draws immense popular interest. Yet, archaeology is under attack on several fronts, from undue targeting and scrutiny of our research expenses by politicians, to complaints from developers and government agencies that our work takes too long or gets in the way of “progress”. A common response to these issues is to argue that archaeologists need to do a better job of communicating what it is that they do. The burgeoning practice of Public Archaeology is one of the responses to this critique. Both Allen and Young would argue that archaeologists are still not sharing this information in an accessible way.

Read the articles and then reflect on the following questions: In what ways is the “Hidden Audience” described by Allen (2002) similar or different from the audience for our cemetery project? Do you see Allen’s 10 Rules applied in the pieces that you’ve read for this class or others? Drawing on Young’s (2002) piece, what are the stories that we should be telling about the cemetery? In what format should we be telling them?