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Archaeology Anecdotes – Crew Walks On

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Archaeology Anecdotes taken from autumn of 2009 —

The archaeology crew was beaten, bloodied, sprained, and exhausted after 38 miles of surveying through thick walls of prickly pear, manzanita, cat’s claw and an assortment of nature’s more malicious varieties of plant life. The heat of the sun was sharp at 7,000 feet of elevation and seemed to suck every last glimmer of hope or moisture out of each crew member with equal vengeance on each step they took through the thickly vegetated forest.

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Wade from www.VagabondJourney.com
Tonto Forest, Arizona, Southwest USA, Autumn 2009
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We huddled up as a crew and took a break at the end of a transect. We all threw our bodies down upon the rocks that made up the ground surface with terminal thuds, and grasped thirstfully at our water bottles and Camelbak hydration tubes.

Rim country - the most rugged terrain in Arizona

Rim country the most rugged terrain in Arizona

The guy who wears a t-shirt in the field that says “Too tough to die, death before dishonor,” who usually delights in running through his transects way ahead of the rest of the crew — “showing us how it’s done” as if racing each other was a foundation of our profession — now redoubled his position and tried to lead the the crew in a chorus of protests against the ridiculously fast pace of surveying we had been keeping up during a week of hiking through very harsh terrain and vegetation.

“My legs are so worn out that I am tripping over everything out there,” Death Before Dishonor spoke, “I can’t keep up at this pace.” He then consulted the tracks function on his GPS unit. It read that we had walked 38 miles of transects in four days. “We have already done 38 miles this week,” he ironically protested in opposition to the boastful mantra still printed on the front of his t-shirt.

Archaeologist surveying near Mogollon Rim in Arizona

Archaeologist surveying near Mogollon Rim in Arizona

The rest of the crew snickered as the self appointed pace car of the project began to break down, and started to whine. The limits of physical endurance had obviously usurped his desire to show off his physical prowess — his usually cry of “We need to move faster, we need to move faster” which provoked the crew into surveying at an idiot’s pace, was now replaced with, “We are moving too fast, I can’t keep up.”

This was a relief.

Tonto Forest topography map

Tonto Forest topography map

The rest of the crew delighted in this voluntary vindication, as this fellow so obviously cursed himself with his own words. No one else on the crew took up his refrain of complaint, even though our legs also burned, or heads also ached, our clothes were also torn, and our arms were also scratched from the great variety of miscellaneous thorns that stick out of nearly every friggin’ plant in the Tonto Forest. We smiled as our own suffering was eased by the suffering of another — a person who, in the circumstances, we did not mind watching suffer.

The crew chief soon cut him short. “38 miles in a 40 hour work week? Come on guys, that is like one mile an hour. Turtles walk that fast.”

Archaeology Crew Chief snapping the whip

Archaeology Crew Chief snapping the whip "Turtles walk that fast!"

And so the crew was rounded up to walk another 3 miles of battling through walls of spines, thorns, brittle bushes, and other biting vegetation before the week would draw to a close. But this final three miles were done with an odd sort of pleasure, and we grew stronger with the knowledge that Death Before Dishonor was feeling as beaten down, limp, and battered as we were.

I looked at my torn rotten shirt and the scratches over my arms. (At least turtles have shells to protect them from this shit.) “Ouch, f’ck, shit, ahhhh!.” The archaeology crew walks on.

Mogollon Rim Arizona

Mogollon Rim Arizona

Read more about archaeology on Vagabond Journey

[seriesposts order=ASC name=”archaeology tonto forest” ]

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Filed under: Archaeology, Arizona, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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