A night view of Sego Canyon rock art panel, a local archaeological site managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The role of women depicted in history through rock art is being talked about at this year’s annual conference in Moab from Feb. 21 through Feb. 23. [Photo courtesy of Jody Patterson]

Southern Utah offers public access to numerous historic and prehistoric sites — mysterious symbols pecked into the sandstone or painted in rich colors that have lasted centuries, sagging log cabins at old homestead sites and abandoned work camps of miners and railroad workers. This access draws visitors interested in archaeology to the area, and Utah also attracts professional archaeologists. This weekend, the Utah Professional Archaeological Council (UPAC) is meeting in Moab to share research and reflect on the culture of their professional field.

“Utah’s archaeology is so incredibly dynamic so these conferences, which share new research, are so valuable for the community,” said Hannah Russell, a local archaeologist and the vice president of Government Affairs and Research for UPAC. “It also certainly helps foster community in our field and gives people a chance to reconnect with old colleagues and friends.”

Russell said she expects around 50 people to attend. The conference will begin on Thursday, Feb. 21, with the first workshops geared toward professionals.

“Archaeology is mired in legalese,” Russell said. Thursday’s meetings will focus on how to interpret specific sections of law that guide archaeologists in classifying sites.

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, the public is welcome to come to the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC) to view posters, meet researchers, and hear presentations on research and analysis from Utah and Colorado archaeologists.

Topics range from the diet of Chinese railroad workers for the Central Pacific Railroad company, to representations of gender in prehistoric rock art on the Colorado Plateau.

The conference schedule includes two symposiums, with several papers on different aspects of a theme presented at each. The first symposium on Friday morning at the MARC is called “Women and Gender in the Archaeological Record” and is beginning at 9 a.m.

Presenters will use archaeological research to infer gender roles and dynamics in past cultures of early Chinese immigrants, 19th Century mining camps, early U.S. National Forest employees and prehistoric cultures.

The second symposium, held on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the MARC, is focusing on Bears Ears National Monument. Representatives from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition will share their activities regarding the monument. Archaeologists will share their research in the area and talk about the relationship between the research they’re doing and the politics surrounding the monument.

Audrey Pefferman is an archaeology intern for the Bureau of Land Management. She is looking forward to attending both symposiums.

“That’s definitely something I haven’t heard people talk about before,” Pefferman said, referring to gender roles in southwestern archaeology. “So that’s really cool… what men and women were doing differently, and how we can figure out what was going on in the archaeological record — I think that’s really fascinating.”

She is also eager to meet with other professional archaeologists, noting that there aren’t many opportunities for archaeologists to interact with each other outside their own agencies or teams.

On Friday night, UPAC has arranged a panel discussion titled “Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination in Archaeology.”

The panel members will be Emmalee Fishburn, the prevention specialist with the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Office at Utah State University, and Dr. Megan Henley, assistant professor of sociology at Colorado Mesa University.

“Archaeology employs quite a lot of women, which, as a woman, I think is one of the strengths of our field,” Russell said. “Despite this, like so many other fields, we haven’t been self-reflective enough to look at the experiences of those in our field.”

“Sexual harassment isn’t acceptable — that has long been the lip service across the board, but how do we facilitate workplaces that truly enforce, foster, and expect that?” Russell said. “Are the concepts of sexual harassment and gender discrimination fully understood by the people who are expected to enforce those rules or the people who are expected to abide by them? Respectful, considered, and thoughtful workplaces produce better work, make happier employees, and help contribute to the overall expectation that those qualities should be expected of all workplaces.”

Utah Professional Archaeological Council comes to Moab

When: Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC), 111 E. 100 North

Cost: Free

Info: Visit upaconline.org

When: Friday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m.

Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

Cost: Free

Info: Visit upaconline.org

When: Friday, Feb. 22, at 9 a.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC), 111 E. 100 North

Cost: Free

Info: Visit upaconline.org

When: Thursday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 23

Where: Locations vary

Cost: Free

Info: The full schedule for the conference (and the abstracts for all papers being presented) can be found online at upaconline.org under the “UPAC Meetings” tab.

“Utah’s archaeology is so incredibly dynamic so these conferences, which share new research, are so valuable for the community.”