SCA: When did you first become interested in archaeology?
AR: I first became interested about age 9, when
I took a trip with my mother, grandfather, and sisters to Mesa Verde,
CO. There I saw Esther (a mummy) in the museum, and the cliff dwellings,
and artifacts. I also read a children's book based on Roy Chapman
Andrew's Dinosaurs of the Gobi Desert and C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves,
and Scholars. What I liked about Andrew's book was the way the dried-up,
red soil with broken chips of dinosaur egg could be interpreted
to give a vivid picture of a cool swamp where a mother dino brooding
over her eggs was attacked by a predator (supposedly). Ceram's book
intrigued me as a child because of the story of the Rosetta stone
and its role in the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
SCA: Did you ever consider a career other than
that of archaeologist?
AR: Never seriously. Earlier, when I was five,
I thought of policeman, fireman, and doctor, but they faded when
I got interested in archaeology. I should explain that I think I
was rather confused about what paleontology and archaeology were.
What I was interested in at 9 had both dinosaurs and pyramids in
SCA: What do you like to do when you're not working?
[i.e., what are your hobbies, do you follow or participate in sports,
enjoy gardening, cooking, traveling, etc.]
AR: I seem to like to do nearly everything. Can
just living be considered a hobby? I like to swim, dig shellfish,
fish (I grew up on Long Island, N.Y., where fishing is everyone's
favorite past-time), play badminton, hike, climb mountains, run,
lift weights, garden (especially old roses and clematis), have picnics
and cookouts, and cultivate vegetables. I like architectural history
and decorative arts. I like 19th century literature and culture.
I love to cook simple things for friends and family. I like animals
and to visit zoos and farms. I like to raise animals and birds.
I'm interested in botany and herbal medicine, soils, and geology.
SCA: While archaeologists are generally adventurous
by nature, most work in more tame environments than Amazonia and
the tropical forests of Africa. Did being a great-granddaughter
of Theodore Roosevelt help shape your views of the world and give
you a desire for adventure?
AR: No. He seemed just a stout, kindly old great-grandfather
(and long dead) to me, I'm afraid, and not terribly inspiring to
an eager nine-year-old. The families of famous people often have
quite a different view of them than the public. (Remember, he really
only went on a couple of safaris, complete with crates of champagne.
He's lauded for those few trips because he was a famous president,
not because they were important expeditions or because he was a
great explorer. It's good to keep things in perspective.) My inspiration
came from my indefatigable, b-minded mother, and perhaps also
from my great aunts and grandmothers. They all traveled the world
and feared nothing. My mother, a painter, student of Thomas Hart
Benton in Kansas City, was a lover of archaeology. She took us to
many archaeological sites as we were growing up and always encouraged
my interest in the subject.
SCA: What do you enjoy most about archaeology?
AR: I like the process of research and discovery.
I love settling down in an archive or museum collection to see what's
there and what it might mean. I love following the trail of an idea,
searching for sites. Survey is one of the great experiences. Perhaps
most satisfying is the process of digging for days, weeks, and months,
searching to understand the layers and objects. And I love the drama
and suspense of waiting for the radiocarbon dates to be run to find
out what the history of the site was.
SCA: Who were the archaeologists and others whom
most influenced your career?
AR: Junius Bird was my first mentor. I worked
with him as a college-age, summer volunteer at the American Museum
of Natural History in New York. My great aunt Ethel introduced me
to him. He was gentle and kind, humorous, and very knowledgeable.
He would sit in the lab and hold forth for hours about this site
or that, or this object or that, of this scandalous archaeologist
of that. I and the other interns were always riveted. I also was
helped very much by Gary Vescelius, also of the Museum, and Ben
Rouse at Yale.
SCA: What are some of the projects that you are
currently working on?
AR: I am working on the peopling of the Americas,
still, and on the history of human occupation in Amazonia. I also
am working on a new problem: the role of tropical rainforests in
human evolution in Africa. I am doing fieldwork both in Amazonia
and in the Congo Basin, Africa. I hope sooner or later to do some
digging in southern Baja California, where I've surveyed some interesting
sites. I'll be very interested in what Matthew des Lauriers finds
in northwest Baja for his dissertation.
SCA: What do you consider to be some of the most
important discoveries made in New World archaeology in recent years?
AR: I think that the discovery in Peru of preceramic
complex societies with essentially nonagricultural subsistence was
very important. Researchers who contributed to this insight include
Junius Bird, Mike Moseley, Jeff Quilter, John Rick, Frederick Engel,
and Richie Burger. I also think that the discovery of maritime foragers
in Peru and in California between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago is
very important, John Erlandson, Susan de France, Mike Moseley, Daniel
Sandweiss did some of this work.
SCA: If you could figure out one thing about the
past, what would it be?
AR: I want to better understand the way foragers
live, organize themselves, and interact with each other. I want
to know more about their crafts and subsistence methods.
SCA: What is the primary importance of your work
at Pedra Pintada?
AR: Pedra Pintada, parallel with the discoveries
on the west coast of South America, showed a different and somewhat
unexpected type of terminal Pleistocene culture. The people who
lived in the cave gathered nuts and fruits, fished and collected
shellfish, turtles, tortoises, and frogs, and caught small animals,
not big game. They also painted in caves and on rock surfaces out
in the open. With this site and all the others in Brazil, we have
a picture showing much more heterogeneous Paleoindian cultures than
envisioned in the Clovis model. In fact, nowadays, Clovis looks
more like a regional specialization than the ancestor, since few
or no South American cultures were specialized big game hunters,
and there are now many sites throughout the hemisphere that, like
Pedra Pintada, are the same age as Clovis: about 11,200 to 10,800
years old, and very different in culture.
SCA: What do you feel are the common goals of
archaeologists and indigenous peoples?
AR: Archaeologists relate to the interests of
indigenous peoples in several ways. Archaeologists need indigenous
peoples for their skill and knowledge in their cultures. On the
other hand, indigenous people need archaeologists to show how their
earlier ancestors lived. In Amazonia, for example, the Kayapo chiefs
were fascinated in our results from digging in the mounds of Marajo
Island because it showed them a rich culture that had not previously
been bly linked to them. They said to me about the Marajoara
culture, "This is fantastic. This is our ancestral culture."
Archaeologists and native people together, also, can document how
people interacted with environments over the long term. Conservation
biologists have promoted the idea of the virgin environment, vulnerable
to damage by native people, and some argued that the people should
be removed from land for conservation purposes. However, archaeologists
and indigenous people have access to the knowledge that their interaction
with environments is a kind of co-evolution, in which both sides
influence each other. People adapt to environments but they also
change them. There are no virgin environments on earth in areas
where people lived.
SCA: What advice would you offer women considering
a career in archaeology?
AR: I would advise women to ignore anyone who
attempts to discourage them, not to listen to anyone who tells them
they might be unsuited to a career in archaeology. Archaeology is
a great field for women. Women, often very persistent and hard-working,
tend to do well in long-term research. Women, often not integrated
into traditional power structures, may be more independent than
men in academe. Women also tend to do well in interactions with
local, rural people, who may be more suspicious of foreign men.
I've not even had much problem with government bureaucracies. People
are pretty nice, in general. Those who have a problem with women
for some reason are few and far between.
SCA: What do you see as the major challenges facing
archaeology at the millennium?
AR: Archaeology needs to get its information out
to the public and to other scientists. The danger I see is that
the value of their information is not being recognized. Thus, systematic
studies of human remains are being ignored in the debates about
the peopling of the Americas even though they have important relevant
information. For example, Joe Powell's research comparing Paleoindian,
Archaic, and Amerindian skeletal remains shows continuity between
the three, indicating that they are linked in an evolutionary process.
This insight has not been dealt with in the public discussion about
Paleoindian origins. In addition, much of evolutionary biology ignores
the evidence from archaeology, which is needed to correct its concepts
of the past. As another example, conservation biologists and development
experts rarely look to archaeology to test their ideas about past
land use and environment and the potential impact of particular
land uses on long-term environmental conservation. Better integration
of prehistory in such work would make the work more effective in
planning for the future.