Joe embodies the perfect balance between fun and professionalism. While he conducts his own specialized GIS work on site with ease, both by himself and as a leader directing his helping hands, and stands at the ready to aid his colleagues, Joe’s witty smile, outgoing nature, and bright conversation lighten each and every atmosphere. He fills the air with his complicated and engaging games to help everyone pass the time—bringing his love for puzzles and interconnections into his work and his social interactions. Joe adores puzzles because he likes to see the bigger picture, and this appreciation attracts him to sports as well. He is particularly fond of baseball, which he played during his undergraduate years at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., due to its rich history and because it showcases the methodical movements of a puzzle in the sport’s pacing, precision, and strategy, almost akin to a chess game. It is likewise this perspective that led Joe to his unexpected specialization within the realm of archaeology. Although he prefers to add variety to his workday by going down into the trenches, Joe believes that laboring on one wall or one context makes it impossible for excavators to retain the image of the site as a whole. GIS helps to reorient archaeologists when they become too focused and to remind them of the larger context at all times. For Joe, “archaeology is just one great puzzle”; making the plan of a site and understanding the place of every artifact and every context in the larger development of the site and surrounding area act like his own games, where others must understand how different words and actions are patterned and interconnected. Every site requires strategy and creativity, heralding continuous enjoyment for the problem-solving excavators like Joe.
The twenty-three-year-old Anthropology Ph.D. student at the University of Buffalo had never before imagined that he would experience places, people, and study in the way he is now, and excavations have led Joe to continuous interactions with the unexpected, both in landscape and finds. He has always loved maps and understanding things in totality, and when he was a child he even wanted to be a weatherman and turn that curiosity of interconnectivity into an impassioned career. Originally a History and Classics major, over time he realized that archaeology was a field in which he could explore these relationships, solve problems, delve into his love of history, and make lifelong friends while blending history, math, and science to the best degree for himself. Further, Joe’s position as an Anthropology student allows him to direct that focus toward the interconnectivity of the human beings, particularly in implementing historical sources, behind the excavated finds and ruins within his archaeological work. This vantage point also opens Joe up to special connections in the fields of both anthropology and archaeology, which have led him to fantastic opportunities such as working on Castellaraccio with the IMPERO Project, a site from his favorite period of history. Through his specialization within these conjoined fields, Joe is not separated, but rather has access to all of the excavators of differing positions—acting as the human embodiment of specificity contextualized and a piece of the puzzle inextricable from the environment. Relaxed, with his perfect day containing plenty of sleep and walks amongst peaceful towns and landscapes, yet driven to learn and succeed, Joe believes that his grand, unexpected moment is still to come, and he cannot wait to see how he challenges himself, his field, and adds to the larger narrative of history.
Text by: Elisabeth Woldeyohannes
Photo by: Riley James