Field notes

Q&A With Erika

This month, we’re getting to know Resource Coordinator and Assistant Archaeologist Erika a little bit better! She grew up in New Mexico and has done a lot of archaeological work in Scotland and Alberta. Erika knows a ton about The Ness of Brodgar, an excavation site made up of monumental Neolithic buildings, which she studied during her time overseas and presented on in a recent Wisdom Wednesday session. 🤓 When she’s not working, Erika is spending quality time with her stepdaughter and stepson (and we can’t forget her husband)! Read on for some more insights into Erika’s career trajectory and fun tidbits.  

What made you first pursue Archaeology as a career path?

I grew up in New Mexico surrounded by incredible archaeology, where every weekend I would get carted out to Puebloan kiva sites, Chaco Canyon, and Petroglyph National park. I was particularly fascinated with artifacts and spent a few summers at camps hosted by various museums. My parents are also passionate about archaeology and emphasized learning, even on holidays. By the time I started my Undergraduate degree at UBC, I thought archaeology was in my past because I had ambitions to become the Prime Minister of Canada and set my major as Political Science! After two short years, I realized that was not the path for me… It didn’t take long for me to once again, find archaeology. I absolutely loved the way archaeology allowed me to connect with people and the past.

Tell us one thing about yourself that 90% of us do not know?

I was a competitive athlete for 13 years. I played rugby provincially and at the varsity university level. When I was living in Scotland, I helped establish the girls’ side of the local rugby club. In their first year, I led them to the national finals. Now, I am too old to play and each game takes too long to recover physically. I managed to escape my career with only a couple of fractured bones, a broken nose, torn meniscus, and only one dislocation! 

The other fact would be that I’m one of five children, and in order of birth, our first initials spell “N.A.K.E.D.” 😂 I sincerely hope it was not planned.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Getting to step in and preserve the evidence of the past, where it would otherwise be lost to construction and development. I really find it rewarding to be part of the process that ensures that the past activity of people isn’t lost. 

What is your archaeological dream?

My archaeological dream is to get invited on a time travel mission as the “in house expert.” Just kidding… It would be a dream to return to Northern Scotland and excavate an undisturbed Neolithic tomb. 

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in the field?

Besides being clumsy or watching other coworkers be clumsy, one of the funniest things happened to me while working in Scotland at a Neolithic site. I was fairly new to the discipline and everything I saw was exciting and new. While working within a 4000 year old structure, carefully peeling away ancient floor deposits millimeter by millimeter, I saw something shining out of the dirt and clay. It was perfectly round and black, I thought “Oh my god a precious jet bead?!” With the encouragement of a couple of coworkers, I painstakingly and precisely excavated the “bead” from the ground. As soon as I had this stunning black “bead” in my hand I applied a little too much pressure and it exploded all over my gloves. Turns out, it was a poor little insect egg that I had unwittingly excavated and then squished. I learned to carry out the “pressure test” much earlier in my identification process next time. 

If you had to choose, which field animal do you most identify with?

I’d have to say that I identify with the rare, yet fun-loving field kitten. I like to spend my time around excavations, often distracting people. My favourite pastimes are playing, stealing lunches, and napping in the sun. 

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