The beginning of the semester was rather confusing in the sense that I was not entirely sure what the class will teach me. While yes, the objectives of the course were taught and for the most part understood, there is always something else that I personally take from the class. As the semester progresses what I think I’m learning constantly changes. For instance, in the very beginning I thought I would simply learn first what exactly Public Archaeology is, as well as, learn some archaeological skills that I feel I would not have learned otherwise. While I did in fact learn these things, it was more of an addendum to what it is that I was to learn from the class. That being said, I learned a lot of different things about the cemetery, the people, archaeological methods, anthropological methods and over culture of both the past and present cemetery. One of the things that I learned, is how intertwined the cemetery and the people are. While personally I know that this is because of the fact that in the culture here in the Rio Grande Valley, family is highly prioritized. This does not mean that they abide by the traditional roles of family, for some family is an accumulation of people that they care about, which can be especially seen in barrio areas of the Valley. These areas consist of very closely-knit communities that are often there to support one another. However, this is not the only way in which the two are very closely intertwined, curing the course of the semester I learned that this is due to the fact that though there is a strong bond between the dead, their loved ones and sometimes the community around them. The fact that there is still an interest in this cemetery says a lot about the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Before I move on and talk about all the other things that I have learned over the course of the semester, it is important to me that I talk about the cemetery itself, as this is where I believe that I learned the most.

In the very beginning of class we learned that the cemetery was built in the early twentieth century, and was closed in the late twentieth century, making it one on the youngest Potters field cemeteries. The cemetery is owned by Hidalgo County and is usually referred to as a Potters field or as a Paupers Cemetery, however, I disagree with the use of those names. While, yes, these name do most accurately describe the purpose of the cemetery, it has negative connotations and associations attached to it and, it does not change the fact that the dead who are buried there are or were a loved one to someone else. For instance, during the semester we saw a few people come to into the cemetery to put flowers on their loved one’s graves and to tidy it up a little, this shows us that though we are working in a cemetery for people who did not have the means to have an elaborate funeral, either for themselves or their loved one(s), it does not make them any less human than anyone else. Which is why I like the idea of changing the name of our project name form Hidalgo County Pauper’s Cemetery Project to Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project. The only problem that I can see with this is that, because of the fact that the word pauper may be more readily known than what a Public Cemetery is exactly, it may garner more interest in the project than a more neutral name for the project. However, I am still in favor of using Public Cemetery instead of Paupers Cemetery as a whole.

The use of a different name of the project helps to influence the kind of attraction that it will garner not only in the general public, but in the academic spheres as well. For example, during the semester we were reading a few academic articles that were similar to the project that we have started here. In these articles it is interesting to see the direction that people take when they start the project. Though I cannot remember the specific article that has originally started with one named and changed it to another, I can remember there being an article written about a project done at a university. In this project they encountered some problems in dealing with a group of people who were looking to maintain their local history. The way that they dealt with this is by listening to the group and attempting to appease them as well as give as much factual evidence as they could. This is one the articles that stood out most to me because I was able to read a little bit more into the way that the project was affecting the community, as well as, having some historical context to the area. The historical context is extremely helpful to me, because as a reader or general public I have less knowledge as to why this project is important not only to the area, but as a whole. Therefore, I believe that it would be beneficial to have a class period or special project for any given semester that would allow for us to talk to the people who are directly affected by this project. I feel that talking to them would allow for a very open communication system that will help us further shape our project.

In terms of the project itself, I believe that we have had a great start in being able to learn how to interact not only with others in our field of study, but with people whose field of study may not outwardly seem to work in conjunction with ours, but ultimately can, as well as learning how this will benefit the community. It will do this by allowing for people to find out who exactly is buried there, for some it may mean being able to finally find their loved ones and for others it will allow for a sort of piece having their loved ones properly documented once again.

Ethics and Public Archeology

The public archaeology described by Jameson differs from the PAR approach described in McGhee, Jameson writes about how to allow equal interpretation, educating people, realizing it is a public resource and what archeology has to offer. The Participatory Action Research or PAR, McGehee writes how it is the community that has all the power and they show be the ones that lead the social change. Although both talk about the individual and the collective whole, what role archeologist play in the community and how all this is organized.
These different approaches suggest that there is an importance placed on ethics that public archeology must follow which create rules that are applied to the projects. There are ethical boundaries that archeologist follow because there is always the debate of who owns it, controls it and its interpretation.
These are some of the question found in the McGhee article that play into the criticisms and what both sides need affecting collaboration and response.
The following questions are from the communities/organizations perspectives:
• Is the researcher willing to follow the community/organization’s lead?
A researcher is not part of the community or organization but both should find common ground to work on because it is important to work together, especially since it is public archeology. However, the researcher depending on the project may not be able to follow the community/organization’s lead just due to the fact that there are so many factors involved one primarily is that the researcher is technically an outsider with an insider’s view.
• How good is the researcher at meeting deadlines?
In our case our project may not be completed because we are working on a semester time’s which means that our time is limited. The deadlines are always important especially when there is a lot of data collection and organization preparation that needs to be done.
• Can the researcher communicate in a community context?
A researcher should be able to communicate within a community context there would be not point if the people involved cannot communicate together. Misunderstanding are bound to happen and could potentially increase the inability to communicate effectively.
• What experience does the researcher have?
In our case, HCPCP, we as students have limited experience however we do have certain skills that allow us to participate in this project in the first place, we have studied and researched, gaining experience as we work.

These questions are from the researcher’s perspective:
• Does the community/organization have the capacity to participate?
The community does have the capacity to participate in this project and contribute in various aspects of it. There are things that we as “outsiders” cannot do which is gather information we as students are not privy to or organizing without the connections.
• What are the established community-based organizations, do they exist?
There are several established community-based organizations that could be of potential help such as LUPE among others that could be interested in the project, who want to understand how this will impact the community.
• What resources can the community organization contribute?
Like I had mentioned above the community can offer information that we do not have access to or did not think of. They can offer what we cannot like the families who are connected to the cemetery, their stories and involvement.
• Does the community/organization have research needs you can fulfill?
This question links to the others above as the community learns about what we are doing in the cemetery, collecting and recording information.
There will always be that debate involving the dead, although we are not digging anyone up we are entering a space (not as family or cemetery workers) that we do not belong. However, we are trying to bring the community together in another way by reidentifying or contacting families so that the history of the people buried there is not forgotten, hidden or ignored. We cannot do this without the help of the community. The community is the one that decides how far we can go with this project and how important it will become in it.


Final Thoughts

My thoughts on this class (Public Archaeology) is that the class is definitely worth taking for any student to take, regardless if their major is an Anthropology or any other major, students should definitely take this class. This class is definitely a nice change of pace as instead of simply being in a classroom and focusing on a bunch of lectures, we got to go out on the field and do some actual field work, something that I feel needs to more integrated for both juniors and seniors (regardless if they’re going for their Bachelors degree or Masters). This class was a breath of fresh air as we the students were allowed to get our hands dirty and do genuine field work, all at our own steady pace. This is especially great for me since I prefer to actually do physical work rather than sit and read (especially since I’ve become more of a Kinesthetic learner), as a result this class was just what I both needed and liked. The class is only once a week, for two in a half hours though if you want or if you have extra time you can put the extra effort on either that day or when you have a day to do it, provided you at least let Dr. Rowe know, so I feel anyone who takes this class (especially since it’s on a Friday) should be able to make it to this class.


The tools we used for this class was sadly short, besides the standard measuring tapes and a website we used for our data collection we also used the total station which was fun to use and once you got the hang of it (as well as go through the pain staking long set up) it was quite easy. Of course, considering the fact that this was an experimental class and was its first term its acceptable that there wasn’t going to be a lot of equipment for this class so it’s understandable and hopefully as the class gets to stay in the school’s curriculum it gets more funded to allow more tools to be used whether it be for the data collection or for the fieldwork. The dogs that showed up on the last day were also fun to have around sniffing for any hidden graves as well as making sure some of the graves we marked were actual graves, though sadly we didn’t get to spend too much time with them seeing as how they were well trained and focused on finding said hidden graves.


The only major complaint regarding this class is the readings and writing assignments that this class will have you do, I myself found these as strange since the class focused so much on field work and research and you’d end up getting so into this you’d end up quite possibly forgetting about the readings and writing assignments, this has happened to most of the class myself included. In fact, while I mostly enjoyed this classes field work I had to focus on my other classes own reading and writing assignments I completely forgot about this classes own assignments till Dr. Rowe reminded us, unfortunately due to my other classes and their own readings I had to put my focus on those instead of putting it on this class especially for the final projects my other classes had for the end of the semester, as a result there simply wasn’t  any time for me to actually do this classes assignments. While I’m not sure exactly what would have been a good substitute for this, I think not only showing up for the class, especially since we only went to the graveyard for what’s essentially a week, but also doing as much research for the graves would have been enough as well as this final paper, which is also fine as it help to push this class more for those who are interested. The readings should have been more along the lines of a recommendation rather than a requirement, and if it was an absolute requirement it should have been for a mid-term/final exam rather than smaller writing assignments.


My advice is to take this class when you don’t have other classes that makes you do a lot of reading and writing assignments, or even classes that will make you do a lot of work in general nor should you take classes that are more important to you such as classes for your major, as those will only get in the way of doing this classes own reading assignments. If you take this class while either simultaneously taking other classes that will have you do a lot of work or by taking a lot of classes than the average four is very stressful and it will ultimately force you to either drop this class or one of the other classes your currently taking, and no one wants to do that especially for such a good hardworking class such as this one or one of the major classes that you need for your major.


Despite this, the class itself is still fun and definitely worth taking or even volunteering as it helps the community by both expanding on their history that they might not have known about (I certainly didn’t know about this cemetery when my family and I moved here) as well as giving people some measure of closure  for locating old or even lost/forgotten family members that they might not have known too much about. This  class is a step in the right direction for hopefully future classes that both want and will have a more hands on approach, which I feel is definitely great for students as they can get the hands on experience that students would normally read in books or hear about through lectures, which I feel is way more important (though readings and lectures are still important) as it is required for the students to actually use and demonstrate their experience in their future jobs and careers.

Communities and Stakeholders

There are several communities in the Rio Grande Valley, such as the rich, the poor, the ones who go church, the ones who don’t, and so on. These communities are different in nature, but they so often overlap and intertwine that they can be viewed as one. As a whole the Valley can recognize the differences that there are between us, however people fail to sometimes remember that the communities here are fluid in their interpretations of one another. That being said there is a very noticeable group that is buried in the HCPCP. The group that is buried there most certainly belong to a group that either has/had less financial means than most all the other groups that live here in the Rio Grande Valley or people who may have simply had no identification on them and thus needed to be buried as a John or Jane Doe. In both these cases the HCPCP was the most affordable place for these communities to bury the dead.

Through out this project it has been very clear that the people buried in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery are not only deceased but they are also still a part of the living community. Because everyone has experienced or will experience the loss of a loved one, the way that we interacted with community of the dead was in a way that allowed for us to feel as though we were getting to learn about a new friend’s house. Therefore it is evident that even though they are no longer living, they still affect the lives of those that live/lived around them. That being said I believe that it was highly beneficial to the project to have people who live in the surrounding area of the cemetery working on the project. This is because as people who live in the same area that the deceased once did, will understand the culture of the area better than an outsider. However, there are some drawbacks to this, for instance because not everyone working on the project lives in or has lived in the same community as the deceased or even as each other. So, then it may be better that we do not allow our own cultural views to influence how we see the people buried in the cemetery.

As stated earlier there are several communities here in the Valley, but not all of them are in the cemetery. So, when we look to talk to the family members of the deceased we are only really including one community in the project, and we are thus neglecting all of the other communities who may have or hold an interest in the project. For instance, if we choose to only really notify and talk with the loved ones of the deceased and choose not talk to Hidalgo County about the progress of the project, then we would loose some of the freedom that we get now. However, this in turn may cause problems with the deceased’s loved ones and may cause them to disagree with the county’s decision.

Digital Techniques

As a class we have set the first of many stepping stones for this project. Within these few months we have been collaborative and co-creative. Yet the question of how can we move towards more collaborative, co-creative, or hosted methods of engagement still arises almost each time we have met. Our class has contemplated and have executed our own ideas up to this point. By working together we have placed close to 1,000 small flags. These flags were a small but important step in this project. With each flag number from 1-1000 they helped conceptualize how massive this project truly is. With each visible headstone accounted for, we then used the flag number as reference number per grave. By using the digital techniques our class can gather data efficiently, with the help from the flags we can see what graves have had their data collected as well as finding similarities between the graves. Another way our class has embraced digital techniques, is allowing us to display our thoughts via blog thus,creating a open space where the public can understand and visualize what is our inspiration for this project. As we gather our data we can compare it to similar projects and use their form of data collection or use what information fitting towards our project. For example, one goal we have is to map the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery just as The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Historic Cemetery has been mapped. Making it easier for the public who would like to find their family members graves or for further research that can be conducted within our findings. As the project progress we will more collaborative and co-creative once more of the public become aware of it. We will search for ways to become more engaged with the public, I believe opportunities will present themselves in given time. Dia De Los Muertos is a great example of how opportunities may arise in regards to engage the public.

With the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery project having many graves using 3D representation may sound like a tedious task.  What benefits would 3D models provide for this project? It be possible for us to use 3D models when talking to the public. Having 3D models of headstones we may be able to get information of previous repairs of headstones, or if a headstone were damaged we could possibly recreate a non damaged headstone to show the public the importance of caring for cemetery has a whole. As we collected data there were a few graves which had trees or shrubs planted near or directly upon the graves. While a small managed plants will not do much harm, a large unattended tree can become devastating to headstones or graves. Other ways a 3D models could further push this project forward is also show how to clean a headstone, if you should use soap with a sponge or should it be cleaned with a small dry brush.

We are now close to the end of the first class to take part in this project, I am very pleased to see how far our class has come in data collecting and also in our creative thoughts of where this project will lead other students and the public and are excited to see where and what other techniques this project will incorporate in given time.     

Digital Techniques in Public Archaeology

Technology comes in many forms, it can be something as simple as a hammer to a phone. As time has passed, the technology that we use has gotten more advanced and in in some cases complicated to use. However, after some time working with the piece of technology, we can gain a better understanding of all the little nuances that come with working the piece. This can also be said in terms of our project at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery, the people who have family buried there for the most part do not know what it is that we are doing, much like I have no idea how to use Photoshop, and so it is then up to us as the research participants to help them understand what we are doing. The first step to this would be finding a way to contact family members of the deceased, after making that first contact, we should try to establish an open line of communication so that we can work with them and try to find out more about the cemetery and their loved ones. Once we do have an open line of communication with them, we can start to have a more cohesive working environment for the project.

As I stated before, working with any type of technology will have it’s ups and downs, however, that really should not hold too much weight as to whether or not we should work with a piece of technology. So, being able to use technology in the field has been a revolutionary idea. Kevin Garstki writes how the use of photography was revolutionary in the field of Archaeology, and the use of new 3D technologies in Archaeology would be equally as useful. The use of 3D technology specifically in this class would be useful because it would further allow for people to really see the what exactly the land looks like, and would thus give not only the public a better understanding and view of the project, but also would help us keep track of the progress of the project.


What Public Archaeology Means To Me.

When I signed up for this Pubic Archaeology class I asked myself, what exactly does “Public Archaeology” mean? With our syllabus in hand, I read over the purpose of this class. The first purpose listed, “..Link students to the broader community by giving them the opportunity to provide service and learn at the same time”, supporting my theory that we would be involved with the community. Hints “Public” but I still lacked the knowledge of what Public Archaeology truly meant. Thankfully our first reading assignment was ” Do you even know what public archaeology is? Treads, theory, practice, ethics” by Lorna-Jane Richardson & Jamie Almansa-Sanchez.

What is Archaeology? According to Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez, Archaeology is “influenced by emerging trends, especially with regard to theoretical approaches to interpretation”. Now, how does placing “Public” in front of “Archaeology” change their definition? The theoretical factor of the term remains accurate, but the definition remains open. We find yourself still searching for the correct terms to label this fairly new approach to Archaeology. By adding “Public” we also granted new and multiple perspectives and opportunities to enter, in doing so Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez suggested we must “situate our work socially, politically and economically”.

Public Archaeology is defined as both a disciplinary practice and a theoretical position by Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez. With communication and involvement with the public, Public Archaeology becomes a sub-discipline. With fifteen contrasting contexts listed by Richardson & Almansa-Sanchez they point out there is not a definitive answer to the question what does a public archaeologist do? The World Archaeological Congress in 1986 had an early manifestation established to promote “the exchange of results from archaeological research; professional training and public education for disadvantaged nations, groups and communities; the empowerment and support of Indigenous groups and First Nations peoples; and the conservation of archaeological sites”.

On our first day of class this data was evident, our institution will be assisting our local county in a project at a long-forgotten Cemetery in hopes of recovering part of the native history. The Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery was founded in 1913 and was operational until approximately 1990. Being a Pauper Cemetery majorly of the individuals who were laid to rest there were indigent, and a fraction were unidentified individuals. Sadly, the documents belonging to the cemetery are no longer available, this is where our class springs in to action. As a class, we will be providing information of the individuals who were laid to rest here. Through the help with modern technology we will be proving names, date of births, date of deaths, descriptive details of each individual’s headstone’s, details of grave offerings provide by loved ones, imagery of the graves, as while as a GPS location of each grave. By using our handheld devices to do the majorly of the data collection we will providing this information with minimal distress to the graves.

As a percipient in this project, I am hopeful to learn about how these individuals lived and died. As a native to this area, it is a pleasure to find out how life was in the area I call home. My thoughts on public archaeology are full of wonder and pride. The wonder if our community as well as the archaeological community will embrace our work or disregard it do to the title we find ourselves under. And the pride of helping a community, which I am a member of. Through the discipline of archaeology, we will remain professional and complete our goals throughout the semester.

What is public archaeology to me?

Richardson, Lorna-Jane and Jaime Almansa-Sanchez, “Do you even know what Public Archaeology is? Trends, theory, practice, ethics,” World Archaeology, Vol. 47 (2):14-211
From what I understand about public archaeology, it is a connection between the professional world and the public. There is no right definition for public archaeology, it is such a wide field with many different interpretations of what public archaeology is to people. Public archaeology makes archaeological finds and information more readily available and understandable for the general publics knowledge. According to Sir Mortimer Wheeler it is the duty of archaeologists to make their findings available to the public (Wheeler 1956.) The term public archaeology is also used to talk about publicly funded and supported excavations. I believe that public archaeology is any form of contributing the science and knowledge of findings and excavations in archaeology to the general public in hopes of educating people. I believe a great example of public archaeology is making your research or finds available through a blog or some sort of internet site. If the public is interested then they have easy access to the information and can even help out if they choose too.

What is Public Archaeology To Me?

Walking into the concept of Public Archaeology is not one I was once aware of. I was set to ponder what Public Archaeology is to me and my best interpretation would be viewing Public Archaeology as a connection between a profession and a community. I thought through it as a concept of bringing a community together to find solid research while keeping the public in the loop with what will and has been discovered. Our project aligns with my concept of public archaeology due to our goals of communicating with the community about their loved ones. Through this, I am interested in solving the unknown and bringing  peace to those that lost touch of a deceased individual. I am interested in bringing the community along our journey of working towards solving unanswered questions and sorting through any complications that may have surfaced within a burial.

Reflection on Public Archaeology

Richardson, Lorna-Jane and Jaime Almansa-Sanchez, “Do you even know what public archaeology is? Trends, theory, practice, ethics”, World Archaeology, Vol 47(2): 14-211.

The authors of this article are having somewhat of a challenge defending the practice of public archaeology through various segments of this piece.  They are quite thorough in listing a wide variety of applications that range from cultural heritage management, indigenous rights, historiography, heritage tourism and education, ethics and popular culture.  A list such as this is quite broad and to the outside reader; seems like a mountain to overcome.  What an inclusive list like this says is that with very little creativity, it is easy for an anthropologist to outline valid reasons for embarking on a public archaeology project.  There seem to be more pros than cons within the world of possibilities.  Always one to pump the positive, it has been my experience that through place-based learning and application, a student and/or community member often has more interest in a project and/or subject matter if he/she can personally relate to it.  One step beyond that would be to say that he/she is more apt to remember and recall the information as well.

The authors also claim that the article will “further extend the debate around the definition and application of public archaeology from a global perspective”.  I found it interesting how they implied that archaeologists seemingly have patience issues with dealing with public community volunteers who are not as thoroughly educated as they are when it comes to archaeological methods.  As an outsider, it appears a bit harsh, but perhaps as I study more, I may just find it to be true.

That being said, it is important to translate opportunities for public archaeological excavations into a project that is relevant to modern world issues.  This needs to be done on multiple levels for multiple reasons.  Since there seems to be a growing interest in public archaeology, the time is now to catch the wave and ride it a far as it goes.  Even though the two approaches “deficit model” and “multiple perspectives model” were outlined clearly, I think the latter is more practical in the 21st century as public interest grows in archeological projects.  They outline three other models of public archaeology that pertain to education, public relations and democracy. One way to gain momentum is to focus on education and the community.  When the opportunity to “enrich lives, enhance cultural heritage, stimulate thought, emotion and creativity” arises, they warn us not to get overexcited and get too many parties involved who have opposite or non-complimentary agendas.  Focus and keep it simple.  Appeal to the public but don’t try to please the entire population.

As the authors continue to describe other models and approaches to this discipline, they mention that there is a “transformative impact on the discipline” when the public is involved in archaeological projects and when “non-experts have access to archeological resources and data” it appears to result in loss of respect by the old guard for the project altogether.  I believe that this should be viewed as a positive trend and that perhaps the “old guard”, if you will, be more receptive to change and advancement in all forms.

One quality a public archaeologist must have is patience.  Identifying, planning, and developing reasonable goals for a project are key.  In other words, don’t rush into anything. In addition, communication among all parties involved is also required in order to guarantee seamless project launch, productivity and completion.  The article often discusses the consequences of that may occur as a result of efforts during a public archaeology project. I fully agree with the author’s comments with regard to embracing the role of a public archaeologist by “engaging people in a positive way and helping them to understand and value the profession and result of the work”. (204)  The fastest way to get a project cancelled is to create conflicts within the community as a result.  The potential outcomes should be outlined so as to highlight the benefits to the community on levels where it will benefit the community as a whole.  Perhaps the uncovering of a site and the excavation of its contents could bring tourism (and therefore tax dollars) to the region?  We are also fighting against time in many areas of the country that are developing at a very rapid rate.  It is important that public archaeology as a discipline grows since soon some potential sites will be buried under macadam and cement; either by a parking lot or a strip mall.  Projects need to be identified and activated before it is too late and they are gone forever.  Since there seems to be a positive upswing in interest in public archaeology, it is important to ride the wave now and create the best options for optimal results that would impress social, political and economic outcomes.