Wednesday, 5 April 2017

SAA conference, Vancouver 2017, Part 1

Me looking thrilled to be presenting my poster
I just got back at the beginning of the week from the Society for American Archaeology conference, held his year in Vancouver. Although it is 'American' archaeology, the geographic spread of attendees and research topics is very international, and I ended up catching up with friends and colleagues from all over the UK as well as the US. I ended up being incredibly busy as I foolishly agreed to do three different sessions. Many months ago I was asked to participate in two sessions as a discussant, as well as submitting a poster on my NERC project. I assumed this meant a role of leading the questions at the end of the session, but on arrival realized it is almost the equivalent of a keynote, and involved giving an actual 15 minute presentation summarizing the papers and state of the field! Luckily the sessions are both topics on which I am passionate, and I managed to put together two talks that went very well.

The first was the Science of Organic Residue Analysis and the Art of Archaeological Interpretation, a session which aimed to make residue analysis more accessible to a general audience. This was a double session from 9 til 5, and I commend the organizers Michelle Eusebio and Ann Laffey for keeping the whole thing running strictly to time! In a way I made the ideal discussant for this, as the topics of the papers ranged from the biomolecular to the microfossil end of the 'residues' spectrum, and I feel very strongly that as researchers, we need to be able to communicate the complexities of our science, not just to the 'public', but to other archaeologists!

The second session was Of Dung and Humans, organised by my PhD supervisor Wendy Matthews and her postdoc Marta Portillo. This was a shorter and very focused session that was very productive; it exemplified the ideal of archaeological science research, question driven and integrating multiple methods and lines of evidence. I was one of 3 discussants, along with Naomi Miller and Linda Scott Cummings, both of whose work I have read and admired for a long time, and it was really interesting getting different perspectives from the US and UK/Europe. The participants included geoarchaeologists, archaeobotanists and zooarchaeologists, all working towards a common goal. We had a really productive discussion, and my summary overlapped with some of the points I made in the Organic Residue session, about the importance of focusing on questions, rather than a favored methodology.

My final contribution was a poster presentation, which was scheduled on the dreaded Sunday morning slot from 8-10. By this point a lot of people have already left the conference, and the first hour was very quiet, but it picked up after 9. I ended up getting a lot of questions, and meeting with a number of fellow coprolite enthusiasts. It is always nice to meet people in person whose work you have read, and who appreciate the archaeological importance of fossil poop.


  1. Very nice getting to meet the illustrious Dr. Shillito. I am looking forward to seeing you whip Blong into shape!

    1. Illustrious! Can I use that comment as evidence of blog impact? John is currently being whipped into shape with mountains of paperwork and admin :)