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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April 4, 2002

A Real Find

Joyce Johnson can be an archaeologist's most valuable resource.

By Hilary Thomson

There is only one UBC staff member whose job ranges from building latrines and sharpening chainsaws to tracking down ancient cedar baskets.

Joyce Johnson, who works for the Laboratory of Archaeology, divides her time between working as an archaeological research assistant in the Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology and a curatorial assistant of Archaeology at UBC's Museum of Anthropology.

Johnson supports the work of UBC archaeologists and students with a unique range of tasks that includes everything from drafting graphics - maps, excavation profiles and charts - to photographing artifacts and making sure the laboratory's field camp equipment such as boats, trailer and van are in good condition and ready to go.

"I keep track of all the resources we have available for archaeological studies," says the CUPE 116 member. "I try to keep things simple for students and free up faculty time and energy by making sure they have what they need."

An important task is being able to track down a specific artifact such as a deer bone needle or stone flake in the museum's collection of 500,000 artifacts. Johnson also manages the Archaeology Teaching Lab that houses racks and racks of artifacts used for teaching students archaeological lab techniques.

If you dig deeper into her many duties you'll discover she also operates the Archaeology Reading Room, which is packed with unpublished manuscripts and books about B.C. archaeology, rare books, maps and documentation of excavations.

But she really gets busy during the six-week Archaeology summer field schools where she readies all the equipment required - everything from trowels and tents to machetes used to clear sites. She also teaches students practical skills such as how to light a camp stove and use surveying equipment.

During the field schools she provides round-the-clock assistance at locations such as the Scowlitz site in the Fraser Valley - a burial mound and house site on Sto:lo territory that has been dated at more than 5,000 years old.

In addition to supporting the UBC community, Johnson also responds to research requests from First Nations groups and archaeological consulting companies who may be working with a forestry or development company to evaluate and manage important sites so that valuable material is secured.

A UBC alumna who returned to school at age 48 to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, she started her job in 1989 while finishing her degree.

Originally a college registrar, Johnson's interest in archaeology was sparked while working at a museum in Banff where she managed collections of First Nations clothing and household items and fuelled by her UBC studies.

"I just fell in love with all this stuff," she says.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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