Let’s play a word association game. Stroll the NDSU campus and ask the first five students you see to blurt out what pops into their minds when you say the word “archaeologist.”
“Dirt,” “digging,” “bones,” “history” and “Indiana Jones.” Except for Indiana Jones – who had yet to leap onto the big screen of swashbuckling, fictional archaeology – the words are not wildly divergent from the scenarios that populated Jeff Clark’s mind when he began his career as an archaeology professor twenty-two years ago.
Clark anticipated teaching some classes, sifting some dirt and digging for bones and artifacts in the conduct of research, and then publishing his findings in research journals. In his mind’s eye, the younger Clark envisioned what he thought would be the typical life of an archaeology/ anthropology professor. As he and his wife, Ann, moved from Illinois to Fargo to embark on what was supposed to be a brief resume-starting stint at North Dakota State University, they were thinking what most young couples think. Establish a career, get the paychecks rolling in, find a comfortable home and begin filling it with children. Jeff and Ann Clark did those things. t e c h n o l o g y : a n e w d i s c o v e r y i n a r c h a e o l o g y
Little did the mild-mannered Clark know that today, at 54, he would emerge as the Superman of futuristic, high-tech archaeological and anthropological research-sharing technologies. Little did he know that he would become an international leader in a Digital Archive Network for Anthropology and World History, known as DANA-WH. Little did he know that he would build and oversee a million-dollar Archaeology Technology Lab on the NDSU campus and become a global beacon for using computers to share artifacts.
Clark wholeheartedly believes that technology can be used so scientists around the world may share access to artifacts, and that technology will play a vital role in presenting archaeological interpretations to the public in easy-to-understand, even whimsical, ways.
His work has not gone unnoticed. He received NDSU’s Waldron Award last year for outstanding faculty research on campus. Next year, Clark and his team will host the Conference for Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology. It’s the first time the confer- ence has been held outside Europe, largely because European archaeological researchers want a firsthand glimpse at the innovative happenings in North Dakota.