Archaeology Adventures @ Your Library

Adventure in Archaeology with Jonathan Keith

Jonathan Keith, a Scott County native who is now an archaeology grad student at Utah State University, explains how Cultural Resource Management protects archaeological sites at Scott County Public Library, December 19 at 6 p.m. Keith earned his anthropology degree from University of Louisville, and is completing his Master’s at Utah State.

A profession combining academic and research disciplines, it “…is a combination of white-collar and blue-collar work, with much of it performed according to “…Cultural Resource Management standards stemming from the Antiquities Act of 1906, and National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,” explains Keith.

The standards protect significant sites and prevent “…extensive damage in places like Danger Cave in Utah. Kentucky had an infamous looting incident at Slack Farm in the late 1980s that involved the looting of hundreds of Native American graves and burials; ultimately this incident led to more stringent laws and to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” said Jonathan.

During two digs at the prehistoric Florida Everglades site, he joined a team performing “faunal” analysis on over 100,000 bones. Species ranged from large-mouth bass and alligator to a Florida Water Rat, pig frog and white-tailed deer. Jonathan also worked at the Pepper House, the historic homestead of Elijah and Oscar Pepper, the founders of Woodford Reserve. One of his favorite projects was recording architectural features of the Central Pacific Railroad through Utah, from near the western boundary of the state all the way to Golden Spike at Promontory Point.

Although archaeology is often associated with the romance and swagger of the fictional Indiana Jones character, Jonathan admits it requires adapting to challenging working conditions, like those he endured at the Hill Utah Test and Training Range. “The survey was conducted over a very mountainous landscape highlighted by steep cliffs, scree and razor-sharp limestone rocks in the summer heat, and had very few trees for shade. However, at the top of the mountain we had a great view of the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island.”

This free library program provides an up-close view of an unusual vocation that Jonathan finds very rewarding, as he documents artifacts that tell a story about the rich legacy of our nation’s history and culture.