In early March, The University of Tulsa played host for the first time to the Oklahoma Archaeology Conference. The gathering took place at Gilcrease Museum and the Helmerich Center for American Research. Danielle Macdonald, assistant professor of anthropology, organized the conference with help from student Zachary Qualls (MA ‘17). “In addition to the stellar content that the presenters and panelist produced, the conference was extra special since it was held at Gilcrease Museum against the beautiful backdrop of the Osage Hills,” Qualls said.
Over 150 people attended, including faculty and students from TU, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and other regional universities. Other participants included archaeologists from Tribal Nations and professional, government and advocational archaeologists. The conference was an opportunity to share research and ideas as well as to strengthen the Oklahoma archaeology community. In addition to traditional conference papers, there was a wide range of workshops, including a traditional Caddo pottery firing, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gilcrease collections and a tour of the Greenwood District.
The TU students who attended had the chance to learn about cutting–edge archaeological research, network with professional archaeologists and present their own investigations. Of those students who presented, Audra Whitehurse and Michaela Conway took home first place and second place respectively in the student poster competition. “Their accomplishments were a huge honor and very exciting for all of us,” Macdonald said.
Whitehurse is working toward her master of arts in anthropology, and her research focuses on personal ornamentation during the Epipalaeolithic period. She is particularly interested in several Mediterranean and Levantine sites. Her thesis, however, will center on shell beads from Kharaneh IV and how personal ornaments related to social status and organization as well as intangible forms of communication. “The conference was such a unique and wonderful opportunity. We had so many people register on site that we ran out of extra name tags,” Whitehurse said.
Conway is a first-year master’s student researching Clovis sites, which are the earliest and best documented remains of late-Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in North America. There is great debate on whether Clovis hunters were dietary specialists or generalists, a topic Conway explores in her studies. “This was my first time presenting at an archaeological conference,” Conway remarked, “and I certainly learned the importance of networking in this discipline.”
The Oklahoma Archaeology Conference is a biennial conference sponsored by the Oklahoma Public Archaeology Network (OKPAN). OKPAN serves as a connection to archaeology in Oklahoma and bridges all the state’s communities with an interest in the past, while promoting education, understanding and outreach. “In addition to thanking OKPAN for sponsoring the 2020 conference, we are also grateful to the Tribal Nations for their support,” Macdonald said.