Gillian M. Steeno (M.A., University of Arkansas, In-Progress) started part-time as the new Society Liaison on January 30, 2023 and will transition to full-time on May 23, 2023. She will be continuing the work of Marilyn Knapp, who retired as Society Liaison at the end of December 2022, and hopes to expand Society participation and membership across the State.
Gillian started her career in archeology at the University of Mississippi in 2017, working on an undergraduate thesis project during her last two years under Dr. Tony Boudreaux. Her thesis “Comparing Lithic Artifacts and Native American Activity at Stark Farm, an Early Contact Period Site in Northeast Mississippi” focused on proportions of stone tool classifications in different contexts to infer probable public versus domestic spaces. She was also a lab assistant at the University during the Summer of 2021 following her undergraduate graduation with a BA in anthropology.
For the past two years, Gillian has been pursuing her master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Arkansas under the guidance of Dr. Jessica Kowalski. During her first year, she was a Graduate Assistant at the Arkansas Archeological Survey (ARAS) and worked on inventorying a collection from Benton County and classifying formal stone tools from that collection. She also worked extensively with the Survey cataloging database, worked with Society volunteers on Lab Days in Fayetteville, and edited the newsletter of the Ko-ko-ci chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society.
Gillian attended the Arkansas Archeological Society (AAS) Training Program in De Queen last June and was able to participate firsthand in seminars and fieldwork alongside Society volunteers and Survey staff. Being able to see the impact of the Society and the passion of the volunteers from across the State solidified her appreciation for the Society and her interest in continuing to be a part of the organization. During that same summer, she was able to help lead a Soaring High in Engineering (SHE) camp that was put together by the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas and the ARAS. This opportunity allowed her to interact with middle school students, helping to foster their interest in Archeology and Engineering.
This year, Gillian is a Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Archeology at the University until she finishes her degree in May. Her master’s thesis focuses on the Carden Bottoms site, an Early Contact period Native American farmstead, in the Arkansas River Valley. It is a unique occupation because of an observed “mingling of cultures” represented in pottery encountered at the site. Her analysis units include pottery decoration and temper as well as stone tool material and type from three excavated houses at the site. In this way, she will be able to draw conclusions about how people were living their day-to-day lives and reaffirming group identity at Carden Bottoms in the wake of European displacement.
Her interest in archeology was born out of trips to historic sites and museums in Kansas with her grandfather during her childhood. Although her siblings were always dragging their heels through the signs containing blurbs about local history, Gillian remembers being excited to learn about past peoples and their lifeways. Throughout middle and high school, her interest in history and culture did not wane. Down the line her mentor, Dr. Boudreaux, encouraged her to pursue her interest in archeology beyond her undergraduate degree.
Gillian has moved all around the Midwest but most often answers that she is from St. Louis when asked, since that is where she spent her high school years. However, her family currently lives in the Detroit area. Gillian is excited to stay in Fayetteville after graduation where she has taken up biking, hiking, and paddling. In her free time, she also enjoys reading mystery novels, drinking tea, and attending local shows and concerts. She is delighted to continue working with the AAS and ARAS and cannot wait to see everyone at the Training Program in June!