Lee News

Dirksen and Williamson Present at Anthropology Conference



Lee University’s Dr. Murl Dirksen and Erin Williamson, Lee alumna, recently presented in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA).

Dirksen, professor of anthropology at Lee, discussed his work excavating at Eagle Rock Shelter in Colorado where his team uncovered an almost-complete 7,000-year-old coil basket and several basket fragments. The basket is the second oldest found in North America and Dirksen discussed the importance of the find to Paleo-Indian and Archaic Period settlement patterns and food gathering strategies that began 12,800 BP (years before present) in the shelter.

Dirksen excavating
Murl Dirksen excavating


Dirksen's presentation, “Continuity of Material Culture: 7,000 years of Southwest Basket Making”, reported on the collection of artifacts from the shelter around the time of the basket being discovered. He also included the history of pueblo basketry with examples of Hopi basket making from lamp slides taken in the late 1800's collection. The lamp slides of women Hopi basket weavers were photographed by a Mennonite missionary in the village where Dirksen grew up. The talk concluded with baskets from his friend, a contemporary Hopi crafter, who markets her products on the internet as well as sells them in a gallery on the reservation.

The excavation has been ongoing for the past 10 years under the direction of Dr. Dudley Gardner, a former student of Dirksen's. Lee conducts two field schools each summer at Eagle Rock to train archaeology students.

Williamson at site
Erin Williamson


Williamson, an anthropology alumnus, spoke about her ethnographic research methodology while studying Appalachian serpent handlers.

She presented on her ethnographic research among serpent handlers in Lafollette, Tennessee. During her time there, a pastor was bitten and died. As a result of his death the media came in to cover the tragedy and National Geographic began filming a series on serpent handlers called “Serpent Salvation.” In Williamson’s talk, “Between Method and Media: Narratives of Traditional Christianity in Modern Appalachia,” she spoke about engaging in ethnographic research during the making of a reality TV show, with the presence of journalists from CNN, NPR and BBC, and during a Tennessee Grand Jury investigation.

Williamson recently completed a degree in visual anthropology in London and has been accepted into a doctoral program at Cambridge University.

The SfAA conference was attended by presenters from more than 33 different countries and is made up of anthropology, sociology, economics, business, planning, medicine, nursing, law, and other related social/behavioral sciences professionals. The unifying factor is a commitment to making an impact on the quality of life in the world today.

For more information about anthropology at Lee University, contact Dirksen at mdirksen@leeuniversity.edu

Hopi Basket
Hopi basket


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