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Success at SEAC!

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Hey guys! Welcome back to Dig Deeper!

If you’ve been keeping up with our social media (and you should be!), you know that we recently went to the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (Affectionately known as “SEAC!”) (Right — thanks, Soph!), and let me tell you — conferences are a LOT of work for the marketing team! I had to make one sheets and booklets and a slideshow and hiring cards and … and …

Uh, KB, you alright there?

Yeah — thanks, Soph!

Anyway, SEAC was a massive effort, (This girl worked her buttocks off!) not only for the marketing team but for many of our staff!

Joanna Klein, Steven Filoromo, and Sharlene O'Donnell

We had people giving presentations, posters on display, and a marketing table where we got to network with current and potential clients, other industry professionals, and students just coming up in the field. (Go team!) Not only that, but we got to let loose a little bit too. Once the conference closed for the day, our coworkers and friends got to spend some relaxing down time hanging out and enjoying all the fun stuff Chattanooga, Tennessee has to offer.

TerraX Showed Out at SEAC!

When SEAC finally came to fruition, the marketing team had an important decision to make — who do we elect to actually attend the conference, manage the marketing side of conference-ing, and just plain show off all the cool things TerraX can do?! The choice became pretty clear pretty quickly (quite clear) — it could be none other than our fearless leader, Public Sector Proposals Coordinator and Marketing Team Leader, the one and only Sharlene O’Donnell! So, joining us today to give us the full rundown of all the cool stuff that happened at SEAC 2023, SHARLENE! (Take it away!)

Hahaha, thanks, guys. Hey everyone — I’m Sharlene. It’s great to meet you all! We really did have a fantastic time at SEAC. It was really cool to see so many of our staff presenting their research, and I personally really enjoyed getting to meet so many potential future clients and team members in person. KB and Sophie asked me to jump on the blog today to tell you a little bit more about the cool work our team got to present at the conference, and later we’ll get to hear from a few of our other staff about their experiences over this jam-packed but fun weekend. Let’s get into it! (Let’s dig deeper, Sharlene!)

From Powerpoints to Poster Presentations — Our People Are Pretty Much Perfect!

Really guys? You don’t think that’s too silly?

*KB and Soph in unison… No! Keep going. You’re doing great!

Well… with around 900 people in attendance and TerraX standing out with 20 plus attendees on our own, we sure mingled with a lot of people — about 75% academic and 25% CRM.

Out of our 20 plus attendees, we had a grand total of eight presentations or posters created by an impressive 14 members of our staff! So many of our people put in long hours — in addition to their day-to-day jobs at TerraX — in order to have thorough and informative presentations at SEAC this year. As a company, we’re incredibly proud of their dedication and scholarship. Each of these writers and presenters is making great contributions to our field! (AMEN!)

Emily Dale kicked things off early Thursday morning with a presentation she co-wrote with Steven Filoromo and Paul D. Jackson, “Ancient and Active Bayous in South Louisiana and Pre-Contact Settlement Modeling.”

As a CRM firm in the Southeast (Check out this post if you need a refresher on CRM!), we do a lot of work in the Louisiana bayous, which are swampy areas inundated by water and mud. In much of the archaeology field, swampy sites like that have often been ignored — archaeologists assume that it will be impossible to find any data because all that water and mud will have moved or destroyed any sites beyond recognition. (Not to mention the ghosts! Just kidding, see our last Halloween post here.) (Don’t go scaring them off Soph!) However, Emily, Steven, and Paul know from experience that it is possible to find really cool sites, artifacts, and data in those bayous, and they did a fantastic job presenting their findings to that point in their presentation.

Just a little while later, our own co-Founder Paul gave his presentation on “Understanding Non-Mound Transitional Mississippian Communities Across the Southeast.” Paul has done some fascinating research on the Indigenous people who lived during what we call the Mississippian period, which ran from roughly A.D. 1050 to A.D. 1500.

During this period, many Native American cultures built mound structures — like those you can visit today at Moundville. Mounds and the villages built around them are super cool sites, and they tell us a lot about the “elite” members of these societies — in fact, many mound structures were used as home sites for village leaders. However, Paul argues that although archaeologists through the years have gathered a lot of valuable data from excavating these sites, it’s also important to look at the outlying village sites from the same time period — the places further away from the mounds where the “common people” lived. These village sites contain data that show us how the average, everyday person lived during the Mississippian period, and we can gather a ton of valuable insight into the societal changes going on during this time from looking at such sites. (Wow, this is really at the heart of what we do in archaeology.)

Next, Joanna Klein gave the presentation she co-wrote with Michael Eichstaedt (Shout out TerraX Lab!) called, “Point Pleasant (16IV199): Analysis of a Non-Mound Coles Creek-Plaquemine Transitional Period Site,” which was the perfect follow-up to Paul’s presentation.

The Point Pleasant site (where TerraX conducted one of our major mitigation projects!), is one of those non-mound Mississippian villages Paul was talking about earlier. As lab specialists, Joanna and Michael got to see, touch, study, measure, categorize, and interpret collected artifacts, including much larger collections of ceramics and faunal artifacts (That’s a fancy term for animal remains like bones and shells!) (I remember, we talked about that in the zooarchaeology blog!) than any archaeologist has found at other nearby sites. Joanna talked about what we learned about the daily lifeways of so-called “average” people during the time — really great work, guys! (Ditto!)

The fabulous Julia Sponholtz rounded out TerraX’s showing on Thursday with her poster, “Paleoethnobotanical Investigations at the Point Pleasant Site (16IV199), Iberville Parish, Louisiana.” (Paleo… what?)

Okay, I know “Paleoethnobotanical” is a big word, so let’s break it down. We’ve got “paleo,” basically meaning old, “ethno” or “ethnic,” referring to a people with a common cultural background, and “botanical,” referring to plants. So, paleoethnobotany is all about studying how ancient people used, consumed, and otherwise interacted with plants! For the Point Pleasant project, Julia studied almost 200 soil samples and found a wide variety of local plants such as grapes/muscadine (Love me some muscadine jam!), verbena, grasses, and other fruits. She concluded that the Mississippian peoples who once lived there likely ate or otherwise used plants that were available seasonally!

Friday morning started off strong with a presentation from Steven Filoromo. He and Emma Jackson Pepperman wrote a paper called, “Archaeology of Labor in a Louisiana Sugarhouse” using data gathered from our mitigation at the Dunboyne Plantation and its sugarhouse. Using the data collected during this project and from other research in the region, Steve and Emma drew conclusions about the daily lives of enslaved and, later, tenant laborers in the sugarhouse. (Such important work!)

Also on Friday morning, we had not one but two posters on display! Raychel Davidson, April Smith, and David Dobbs created one titled, “The Materiality of Memorials through a Biocultural Lens: Investigating a 19th- to 20th-century family cemetery in North Carolina.”

Their poster had a lot of information on a recent cemetery relocation this team performed. This family cemetery contained a total of 15 burials, eight of which were estimated to be for children or, at least, non-adult people. Raychel, April, and David analyzed materials such as coffin hardware, wood, and glass as well as the spatial layout of the cemetery to learn more about the family connections between the interred persons.

The other second poster on display that day came to us from April Smith (We see you out here with two contributions, girl!), Elizabeth Southard, and Steven Filoromo.

Their poster, titled, “Lost but Not Forgotten: Relocating A Family Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia Using Soil Probing and Ground Penetrating Radar,” was also about a cemetery relocation, but this one had a little bit of a crazy story. During a routine investigation, our team discovered that the headstones in a small family cemetery had been moved about 7.5 meters away from the actual locations of the graves. TerraX conducted GPR testing (Here’s a post if you need a crash course in GPR!) and located the graves of 32 individuals. The poster detailed the challenging work the team did to reunite these graves with their markers — really great job, everybody!

Later that afternoon, we had one final poster to show off! Our guys Kevin Rolph and Steven Filoromo (Keep it up guys!) put together some fantastic research and called their presentation, “Let’s Dig In: Evidence of Communal Activities at a Coles Creek Site in Southeast Louisiana.” They discussed evidence of feasting events — large, communal gatherings often characterized by large cooking spaces and evidences of fires and food preparation and waste — that we’ve found in the archaeological record. (You could say it was a feast of a presentation!)

To round out our SEAC schedule, the TerraX team had one more presentation on Saturday morning. On behalf of himself, Anthony Boucher, and Elizabeth Southard, Terry Barbour gave a presentation called, “Revisiting Big Hammock: A Phase II Investigation of (8WL3/22).” Terry shared details about TerraX’s investigation into this Mid- to Late-Woodland (That’s even older than Mississippian!) site. They collected a lot of data, and these three did a fantastic job bringing together their information and creating a great presentation.

Whew, that was a lot! (Talk about rock stars!) But seriously, congratulations to all of our incredible presenters — you all did a wonderful job, and your research was fascinating! Everyone did a lot of hard work preparing for SEAC this year; however, we weren't just sitting in lectures all day! SEAC is not just about research papers, it’s also about people! Here is Sophie to tell us what our team has to say about their experience at SEAC.

A Little Bit of Perspective on SEAC

Thanks Sharlene! I’m so impressed with our team and all their efforts they put forth to bring their research to the forefront of the archaeological community! That’s why we wanted to hear from a few of our attendees directly and find out what stood out to them at SEAC this year.

Emma Pepperman at the tattoo parlor

Emma Jackson Pepperman says first and foremost, “The TerraX team was very supportive of each other. We went out to lunch with different groups from TerraX, we went for ice cream at my favorite ice cream shop, some of us went on walks by the river, we had a big dinner on the last night, and four of us (on our own time) may or may not have gotten tattoos on the last day — it was really great time!” (Sounds like the bee's knees, Emma!) “I mean… can you ask for more than tattoos and ice cream?”

Kevin Rolph, Steven Filoromo, Austin Lee, and Emma Pepperman

2023 SEAC T-shirt design by Emma Pepperman

As one of our fearless leaders, Paul Jackson says “What was especially great about this year was that we had the largest participation of any institution for a CRM firm. It makes me very proud to see that many people who want to do good archaeology. They (the TerraX team) really showcased it this year, and everyone noticed. This year really opened the door for Terrax — they see who we are now.”

And who are we?…

A force to be reckoned with!

Overall, chimes Raychel Davidson, (back to reality, Soph), “It was a good team experience! We got to hang out and eat dinner and discuss important topics. It was just great to be there physically in person.”

“In-person interaction is the key!” adds our Lab Director and 8x SEAC attendee (6x presenter), Mark Donop. “It’s a good way to make an impression and have face-to-face interactions with archaeologists and academics — personally and for TerraX.”

Cheyenne Davis, April Smith, Raychel Davidson, and Emma Pepperman

There are plenty of opportunities at SEAC, Raychel tells us, for both professionals and students. On a professional level, “SEAC creates access for everyone when it comes to potential jobs — it’s not just!” (A provider of Archaeology, Academic, and Cultural Resource Management (CRM) related jobs). Not to mention, “Being a vendor really gave us a purpose at SEAC too.” (We had so many goodies to give out including stickers, koozies, and reusable TerraX glass straws as well as information about the company, its people, and opportunities!)

From the perspective of a former attending student (back in 2013), Mark says, “When I was looking forward to a career in archaeology, SEAC was a good place to meet people you wouldn't normally get to talk to.” These could be professors, university reps, members of the State Historic Preservations Offices (SHPO), Tribal representatives, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) practitioners, or even, as Raychel puts it, published “celebrities” of the archaeological community! She continues to say, “It was interesting to have a variety of people with strong backgrounds in education and to be able to recruit for our company and even talk to those outside of CRM.” (It’s a win, win!)

It sounds like networking is abundant at SEAC! “Yes,” answers Mark, “SEAC is good for networking, but we are also helping each other and getting to know one another face-to-face.” With most of us working from home these days, I’m sure that’s a refreshing change in the workplace, even when things get a little… debate-y.

SEAC is a Great Place for an Archaeological Debate!

Joanna Klein, Julia Sponholtz, and Emma Pepperman

As Mark says, SEAC does not just allow for mingling among peers and networking between professionals, but it allows for debate among intellectuals as well! Mark continues to say, “Conferences like SEAC are not just about business, but they are most importantly about improving the field.” SEAC allows for improvement through presentations by its attendees, but it also hosts forums and panels with open attendance and open discussions.

Raychel says “SEAC talks about a lot of important topics using a lot of panels” such as Lunch and Learns, NAGPRA Sessions, Curation Panels, and even forums on serious topics within the archaeology community. “There are usually multiple panels a day that discuss important hot topics within archaeology and discussions on how to navigate them.”

Emma Pepperman and Cheyenne Davis

Emma also expressed passion about these debates at SEAC saying, “SEAC is a great space for debate and sharing perspectives about what we are going to do as a field! We can come together and make choices that will be good for us all and discover different ways that we can, as a professional field, protect our workers and people,” adding, “If we don't collaborate, how can we get better?” Raychel felt the same kind of passion about the collaboration and the coming-together of great minds from different generations, saying, “It was invigorating for me to go to SEAC and reignite that core center of why we do what we do.”

Paul had a similar experience personally, saying, “My brain expanded with all these new things I suddenly wanted to do, and it reignited my interest in what I’m already doing!” (We are getting excited just hearing about your excitement!) Paul emphasizes, That’s what I love about SEAC, you get together and see what others are doing and that encourages you to do more!” (Educational and inspirational — heck yeah!)

Joanna Klein, Austin Lee, Emily Dale, Paul Jackson, Raychel Davidson, Chris Rivers, and Emma Pepperman

It’s safe to say, everyone agrees, SEAC is a great place to have whole-hearted discussions with educators and professionals within their field. “We are like trees that grow together,” Raychel concludes. “There is competition and comradery to see where we overlap with the potential for collaboration.”

Thanks everyone for giving us the lowdown on SEAC! Now that we have heard from some of our fellow attendees, we wanted to throw it back to you Sharlene one last time — from a marketing perspective, how was your SEAC experience?

You Gotta Have a Representative!

Thanks Sophie! Well, first off, Mark and I were at the vendor's table most of the conference. Basically, I was in charge of repping Terrax and talking with potential clients and future employees. It was especially cool seeing my friends within the industry and even reconnecting with some of my old mentors! Even though it was technically work, I really did love reeling people in and talking to them about my profession — And we made it fun! I basically set up carnival games at the table, such as get the paper ball into the stack of solo cups to win a piece of candy — and it worked! (Of course it worked! No one can resist the carnival.)

But in all seriousness, I generally enjoyed talking to people and getting to talk to the young people wanting to understand more about CRM, to meet people of the public sector (our online cohorts), and even chat with some of TerraX’s teaming partners. It was nice to understand directly what they are looking for — especially considering my Proposals Coordinator position at TerraX. It was also a good way to put a face to the name. (As everyone has seemed to emphasize.) I didn't actually know I was going to end up being a public educator though. My job has given me an enormous amount of knowledge about CRM, I even got to talk to people about architectural history… and I am not an architectural historian! It comes with the job and being able to interact with all departments — you learn things! (I second that! — Sophie here — and I will say, a digital marketer who started off in technical writing for TerraX, BOY do you learn a lot outside of your expertise!)

As a side track, I do want to emphasize how much everyone from TerraX helped out. Everyone at the conference contributed to the table, and I'm very grateful for that — with another special shout out to Mark (see Mark and Sharlene in the first photo above). Mark was my wingman, and he was very good at talking to the younger crowds, giving them career advice in the field.

Outside of the conference, Chattanooga was really fun and a truly beautiful city. Mark and I walked down to John Ross Landing to the immersive Trail of Tears memorial down by the Tennessee River (See slideshow below). The entire TerraX team also all went out to dinner at Public House Restaurant which was a fantastic time and good for comradery. To summarize, it was just a positive ending to a positive week. (We are so glad to hear it!)

Sharlene O'Donnell, Steven Filoromo, Cheyenne Davis, Raychel Davidson, and Emma Pepperman

What a week! Thank you so very much Sharlene for doing a quick Dig Deeper takeover! It was great to hear personally from so many of our TerraX team on the 2023 SEAC experience — we surely will be attending next year! Now, unless anyone else has anything else to say, we will be signing off. KB? Did we miss anything? We look forward to all the archaeological, historical, architectural and — Heck! — maybe even marketing conference opportunities to come next year!

Until next time ya’ll,

Soph and KB, your guides into the archaeological world!


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