See the New Website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute

Good morning.  The Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute (ORARI) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has upgraded its website to a new and much better looking WordPress format. You may visit our new website by clicking on the safe link below, but before doing that, you really do need to read the rest of this blog post below the link and then come back up to here and click on the link when you are finished with the reading. Otherwise, you will miss a lot of important and interesting context. Here is the safe link to our new website, and please be sure to click on all of the buttons at the top of our main page so you do not miss anything:

Several important and attractive changes have been made to improve the website and make it more inviting to visitors. Here are a few of the changes and some related observations:

(1) The official logo image for ORARI has been changed.  The old logo image, the incised scene on the long-missing Madison Tablet, is now gone forever. Given the questionable origin of the Madison Tablet, the ORARI logo was changed to something more clearly and definitively associated with the prehistoric past in Tennessee. I grew up in Sumner County, Tennessee, and the new logo involves a well-known prehistoric archaeological site in Sumner County that is near and dear to my childhood heart. I put a lot of late night archaeological research, Exacto knife precision, pigment selection, and careful colorization effort into creating the new logo. The story behind its almost-from-scratch creation is provided in the form of a short but interesting archaeological essay under the Logo button on the new website. If you would like to read it, just click on the Logo button at the top of the page when you visit the new website.

(2) Some mighty strange coincidences happen in life. For example, I have a doppleganger who lives here in Oak Ridge.  I was standing in a checkout line at the Food City store here in Oak Ridge one day about 20 years ago. The woman standing right in front of me turned around suddenly, looked straight into my face from only 15 inches away, and said, “Well, aren’t you going to say hello?” I had never seen this lady before, so I asked how she knew me.  Then she said: “You must be kidding!!!  I worked for you for eight years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.” Then there was that time at the Walgreens prescription counter. I stepped up to the counter for the first time, and the pharmacy technician said: “Why are you back here?  I told you your prescription would be ready in just a few minutes!!!”  I shrugged in startled disbelief—and told her that I had just arrived. Then she got upset and wanted to argue about it.

It had to happen—eventually. It was a Saturday here in Oak Ridge, and I was standing at the meat cooler in Kroger. I happened to glance across my right shoulder and saw a guy standing at the end of a grocery aisle about 30 feet away.  It was ME!!!  I kid you not!!!  He was an exact phenotypical carbon copy of me in all respects—like we were identical twins who had been separated at birth. Even his haircut was like mine—with the same part in it. His beard was the same.  He was even wearing clothing items that were exactly like ones I owned. It was so shocking that I just froze in place in bug-eyed amazement. To this day, I still do not know who this guy is or where he lives.

Why am I telling you this story? Well, my daughter, Ms. Leah C. Decker, has an equally amazing doppleganger. The WordPress Lodestar format that I used for the new ORARI website comes with a teal-shaded cover page photo of a young woman working at a computer station. My daughter has long, straight, blonde hair now and sometimes wears glasses. The young woman in the WordPress stock photograph looks exactly like my daughter (with glasses on) in profile view. I was planning on using a different cover photograph for the new ORARI website, but after thinking on it for a while, I decided to go with the Lodestar stock photograph because my daughter volunteers at ORARI in her spare time, helping out with computer issues, photography, and graphics. In addition, she sometimes serves as a volunteer archaeological field technician for ORARI. I love my daughter and enjoy watching her work. Whenever I go to the new ORARI website, it is nice to see “her” working for us on the cover page.

(3) The old ORARI website was drab and poorly illustrated—with only one old black and white photograph that was historical rather than archaeological. Otherwise, it was all words. Our new website is much better illustrated and more colorful with many paintings, photographs, drawings, and graphite rubbings. Some of these illustrations involve archaeological work ORARI is doing, and others are items associated with the unique history of Oak Ridge and Tennessee.  These illustrations are strategically placed throughout our various web pages. Each illustration has an interesting story associated with it. If you would like to know more about the various illustrations, just click on the Website Graphics Log button. Each illustration is presented again there along with its unique story.  If you love Tennessee archaeology and history, I think you will have fun reading these brief stories.

(4)  The Archaeology in Tennessee blog  is now five years old, and ORARI is four years old. Yes, it has been that long!!! Blog visitation and views have far exceeded my original expectations. I have sat here for all of those years writing blog posts; creating the ORARI organization from scratch; helping colleagues, friends, and strangers with Tennessee archaeology issues; peer reviewing colleague papers for publication; and doing all sorts of other useful things in support of Tennessee archaeology and history. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that most of you have never seen the place where my work is done. Therefore, I took some office photographs for you. If you would like to see them, just click on the Office button at the top of the new ORARI website.  When you get there, please notice the large framed poster of the antlered American Plains Indian shaman by Frank Howell. I am not normally a believer in silly conspiracy theories or paranormal activity—but there is something really strange going on with that poster. Be sure and read our paranormal activity footnote at the end of the Website Graphics Log section.

As an addendum to that footnote herein, this was the only corner of the office where I could not get a decent, nongrainy photograph with my Canon SLR camera. It may just be the fact that this office is a poorly lighted and framed-reflective-glass nightmare. Perhaps I am just not the world’s best photographer. However, it is at least marginally possible that the shaman and weird paranormal activity in that corner of the office might have been at work on my camera.

(5) Humorous Confession Time: Many of my colleagues in American archaeology, especially in the world of CRM, believe the world of American business does not take American archaeologists seriously. Therefore, when not covered with dirt from a 1-meter or 2-meter square, we archaeologists must strive to always “look professional” and present to the business world a very serious public image that jibes with that of the typical be-suited CEO or corporate attorney. What is the general thinking of many archaeologists on that? If we look like that and present a public image like that, someday we archaeologists will receive the same level of high corporate respect other professionals receive in the business world.

As many of you know, I left American archaeology for a very long time to pursue a separate career as a corporate environmental scientist. When I worked for Science & Technology, Inc. and Battelle Memorial Institute (the world’s largest not-for-profit research organization), I took on that deadly serious private sector professional image. I was expected to do so and wanted to do so. I had to dress up every day in really nice dress clothing (like our dapper, bow-tie colleague Jeff Chapman has always done when not working in the field) and play that very serious corporate role with our many clients—and I did it very well and quite comfortably—and enjoyed it for many years. However, I must honestly say that my clients did not respect me and my colleagues because of the professional image we presented to them. They respected us because we were professional scientists who did an excellent job for them on their various projects.

I later worked for similar environmental organizations that did not require us to dress and behave that way. The respect factor did not change when we dressed down and behaved far more loosely and casually with our clients. The key factor in that sustained level of respect over time was not a matter of presenting a serious professional image. The respect was entirely a matter of who we were as people, our chosen professional discipline in science or engineering, and the high quality of the work we did for our clients.

Therefore, I do not share this notion that archaeologists, particularly CRM archaeologists, will someday receive the private sector respect they crave just because they present a professional image that rivals that of a corporate CEO or attorney. Based on my own experience and that of my environmental science and engineering colleagues, I think the whole notion of it is pure bullshit. If American archaeologists, particularly CRM archaeologists, do indeed suffer from some sort of Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome, the problem is not one of professional image. The problem is that few people in American business take archaeology itself seriously. (Been there.  Seen that.) No amount of professional image polish and presentation is going to change that sad fact. If we want corporate CEO or attorney-like respect as archaeologists, we need to find a way to make private sector businessmen and businesswomen fall in love with the ancient past, American archaeology itself, and the quality of the archaeological work we do for them. When they come to love those three things together, they will love and respect us too.

Let’s be honest here. At heart, really at heart, most American archaeologists are fundamentally tee-shirt and a-good-beer people. We do not behave like corporate attorneys because that is not who most of us are as people. If anything, we are likely to tell a few corporate attorney jokes over that good beer at our favorite bar. Personally, I live in and do most of my archaeology work in a tee-shirt and shorts—sometimes even in winter—both out in the field and in my office.  So what is my confession?

Well, go to the Staff button on the new ORARI website and click on it. Nice photograph of me, huh? I am wearing an expensive pinpoint Oxford dress shirt and a tie worthy of any shelf at Brooks Brothers. It is the kind of image many archaeologists feel we need to project to our business public to gain respect. The truth? In that photograph, from the waist down, I am wearing shorts, socks, and a beat-up pair of New Balance cross-training shoes. My daughter Leah was visiting at our house that day and had a few spare minutes to snap a photograph of me for the blog. I shot back to our master bedroom, threw on a shirt and tie I almost never wear, and my daughter quickly snapped the picture. Who is that guy above my waist line in that photograph—the guy with the crisply starched and pressed shirt and the nice tie? Beats me man? I guess he is some archaeologist exhibiting his professional image. The authentic American archaeologist in that photograph is the guy below the waist line in shorts and grubby cross-training shoes.

(6) Most of the words on the new ORARI website are still the same as the ones on the old website. However, I did do some editing, clarifications, and other tweaking on them for the new ORARI website. We have a lot of new words in the Logo section and the Website Graphics Log section.  You might like to take a look at those.

I worked really hard on creating the new ORARI website.  It was done with the needs of the ORARI organization in mind, but it was also done with YOU in mind. By that I mean that I was trying to create a more interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and enjoyable place for you and the rest of the general public to visit—and maybe learn a few new things about Tennessee archaeology and history.

Much love to all of you and have a wonderful day.

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