The man who is seen as the Father of American (U.S.) Archaeology is also the Father of the Declaration of Independence; Thomas Jefferson. He had always been interested in the Native Americans of Virginia. “Jefferson studied and made note of the similarities and differences between over forty tribal languages in Virginia.” Unfortunately most of those notes were lost when a wagon transporting his belongs from the White House to Monticello was ransacked. But this linguistic study was just the start to his curiosity. He had learned of mounds located in Virginia, and one in his neighbourhood, which he was determined to open and examine thoroughly. His notes on the excavations were very detailed; I am tempted to say that he did a better job with the Native American mounds than Howard Carter with King Tut. “Jefferson wrote that the mound was 'of spheroidical form, of about 40 feet diameter at the base, and had been of about twelve feet altitude...I first dug superficially in several parts of it, and came to collections of human bones, at different depths, from six inches to three feet below the surface.'” The key words in this are “I...dug.” He was willing to do the hard work to satisfy his curiosity. Even though, in Jefferson's era, archaeologists were seen as digging and so on a hobby (Speculative Period, 1492 – 1840), in everything he did was so meticulous, he was a practicing field archaeologist. (below: on the left is a mammoth tooth fossil Jefferson found; on the right is an example of a Native American burial mound.)
Modern anthropologists do just that, they go do the research for themselves. They go to different states for research with like minded anthropologists, they go to completely different countries to observe other cultures, they go to isolated areas to dig, sometimes with just a party of five people including them. For physical anthropologists, the dig is something we look forward to; because if we are digging that means we are digging towards something. But to get the funds to go dig is a totally different story; you needs grants and definite proof that the excursion will be worth it. But even though going to different countries for research is the epitome for an anthropologist (besides getting published), just going to the next state over to broaden your knowledge or research qualifies as leg work. Just do not make assumptions and conclusions from a computer or television screen while sitting comfy on your chair. If you condense what an anthropologist has to do, it is leg work...and publication.
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.