Alumnus Russell (Rusty) Greaves is returning to The University of New Mexico this summer as the new director of the Office of Contract Archaeology following a career that has included other cultural resource work, research, and teaching at several universities.
Greaves earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology at UNM in 1997. His wife Karen L. Kramer, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah, also received her Ph.D. in Anthropology at UNM.
His 39-year career crosscuts the breadth of anthropology, with research, publications, and fieldwork spanning archaeology, ethnology, and evolutionary anthropology and makes him a unique fit at the UNM Office of Contract Archaeology. Within archaeology, Greaves has conducted and led field- and collection-based projects on a diversity of archaeological sites spanning the Paleoindian period to the 19th century CE, principally in the American Southwest, Great Plains, Texas, and Great Basin. His ethnoarchaeological work has included research with Indigenous communities in Venezuela and Mexico in addition to projects with Pueblo and Diné communities in New Mexico and Arizona. A skilled analyst of archaeological materials, he brings expertise in lithic and faunal analyses, geoarchaeology, ethnobotany and numerous projects involving archival materials, legacy museum collections, and recent field data.
As OCA director, Greaves said his job includes promoting positive scientific teamwork in the context of cultural resource management, assuring the continued high-quality of the work at OCA, maintaining an interesting and supportive work environment for staff, meeting client goals, and contributing to general archaeological knowledge. Equally important, he said, is developing public outreach that lets interested members of the public know what OCA does as part of its public archaeology work, since much of the OCA funding comes from public organizations.
Greaves explained that modern contract archaeology began as part of compliance with environmental protection laws put in place in the 1960s-1970s. Contract archaeology, or public archaeology, seeks to identify what archaeological sites are present on federal or local lands and how to avoid unnecessary potential destruction of those cultural resources and collects data relevant for large-scale understanding of the archaeological record in those places.
“When contract archaeology began it was very closely allied with academic archaeology. It was part of an optimistic and novel science-based set of changes in archaeological methods and goals. Contract archaeology became the fieldwork and laboratory testing ground for many of these innovative and explicitly scientific revolutions in archaeological thinking,” he noted.
Greaves said these important changes in archaeology from being a mostly descriptive and interpretive discipline were closely associated with one of UNM’s most well-known archaeologists, Professor Lewis Binford. Subsequently, Greaves said, contract archaeology became less allied with academic anthropology and developed into a more business-oriented aspect of environmental management.
In addition to being skilled archaeologists, contract scientists must balance the needs of ongoing infrastructure development in our country with protection of the archaeological resources on those lands, Greaves explained.
“Contract archaeology also is evolving in response to the social and intellectual changes in our public and academic understanding of not only the past, but also current concerns about the cultural importance of public lands,” he said, adding, “Contract archaeology is grappling with better ways to identify and protect a range of landscape locations, features, viewsheds, and even the effects of modern sound intrusions on places that are important to a broad array of Native American interests and use. Historical archaeology has been responsive to the recognition of gaps in our knowledge and appreciation of the record associated with ethnic groups whose history has not been as thoroughly treated as those of some of the European migrants to the New World.”
OCA provides significant opportunities for students to get fieldwork and laboratory experience.
Because of the amount of contract archaeological work being done in the U.S., students continue to rely on opportunities provided through public archaeology projects, especially to gain diverse fieldwork and laboratory experience and skills, Greaves said. Contract archaeology is currently the largest employer of most college and university-trained archaeologists.
“Students are an integral component of not only the day-to-day operation of OCA’s laboratory, fieldwork, analyses, and report production, but the involvement of students is a critical component of OCA’s mission as an educational branch of UNM’s historically important contributions to anthropology,” Greaves remarked. “OCA is one of the few contract archaeology organizations still intimately associated with a university, an anthropology program, and with an anthropology museum. I feel that these links can maximize OCA’s positive impact on future generations of anthropologists and allied disciplines as a whole.”
Greaves noted that OCA offers opportunities for students in the Public Archaeology Graduate Program to get practical experience before completing their graduate training that will make them competitive in the cultural resource management field. Plus, they can explore the many different kinds of opportunities and specialties that contribute to contract work and develop those which will be most rewarding to them personally and professionally.
Greaves predicts a dramatic increase in renewable energy projects that will also involve the need for cultural resource management particularly areas with special significance to Native American groups. He hopes to establish “a respectful ambassadorship between the contract archaeology requirements of public development projects and Tribal interests.”
“I want to see OCA both maintain its reputation for doing innovative archaeology and expand our capabilities to meet the challenges that are becoming part of the inclusive anthropological requirements of contract work… The past director and I hope that OCA will be able to expand our client base into this new industry that seems a natural partner for sound environmental practices that includes support for all aspects of contract work," said Greaves. "Some of these companies may be new to environmental regulations, and we would hope that OCA could help provide guidance on the legal requirements, procedures, and timetables involved in contract archaeology.
"I have found that building effective communication and early planning can be some of the most important ways for not only getting new work, but also working with existing clients to provide cost-effective approaches to completion of regulatory requirements. This saves companies money and delays, and helps identify organizations such as OCA that have good reputations and meet state expectations about the quality of archaeological work for smoother permit approvals.”