While at the conference, I had several long conversations with my colleague Benjamin Pykles. Ben is an assistant professor at SUNY Potsdam, and he leads a fascinating archaeological study of the Latter-day Saints' settlement Iosepa in Skull Valley, Utah.
Iosepa was settled by a group of Polynesian immigrants in the 1880s. The Latter-day Saints had been very successful missionaries throughout Polynesia, particularly in Hawaii. Many came to Utah and settled into this Skull Valley community where they undertook drylands farming and mineral prospecting. Many families lived there for three decades.
Like most archaeological sites, Iosepa's remains serve as a touchstone for current social controversy. The site is a sacred and powerful place to many of those who are descended from the settlers, and the landscape itself reminds people of past struggles for equality, faith, and social justice.
Ben's study is a multi-year project, starting with survey and limited testing. Ben's collaborators are working with ground penetrating radar and he hopes to do some multi-spectral aerial photography in the future. Both types of survey will help him map the imprint of peoples' activities at Iosepa.
I admire Ben for his earnest efforts to bring disparate stakeholder groups together and include them in his research work.
For more information and some photos, click on these links:
The Bonniville Mariner Blogger worked with Ben and his team during last year's dig: