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Abstract

In order to more accurately define the position that avocational archaeologists have within the field, and discover the role that they have played as constructors of knowledge, I will begin this paper with a brief definition of archaeology and an outline of its history in America. Next, I will place avocationalists within the field of archaeology by defining what exactly it means to be an avocational archaeologist. I will then focus on one avocational archaeology group, the Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association, and its members. Through a series of interviews and surveys with professional and non-professional archaeologists, including an extended interview with Professor Jordan Kerber, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Native American Studies at Colgate University, I have gained important data on chapter member demographics, field methods and chapter activities, identity formation, and relationships with professional archaeologists. Additionally, I have collected data on the possession of recovered artifacts and the importance of recording and publishing findings.

After presenting conclusions about the avocational group and its members, I will discuss how students of archaeology fit into the equation, comparing their methods of excavation, their role as producers of knowledge, and their placement within the hierarchy of the field, with the avocationalists. While students of archaeology are not considered professionals, their location within institutions of higher learning, and their instruction as to the proper methods of excavation, cataloguing and interpretation by professional archaeologists places them in a mediated position between professional and avocational. The comparison between avocational archaeologists and students will draw on my observations of, and participation in, Colgate University’s “Field Methods and Interpretations in Archaeology” course during the 2009 field season. Finally, I will look at the prospective future of avocational archaeology in America, and analyze the changing nature of the craft.

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