Highlands Anthropology Graduate Promoted to Assistant Supervisory Archaeologist
New Mexico Highlands anthropology graduate Sara Cullen was promoted to assistant supervisory archaeologist in training at Southwest Archaeological Consultants, Inc. after earning her M.A. from the university in May.
The Santa Fe archaeological consulting firm hired Cullen in January as a field archaeologist. Now she helps supervise a field crew of 3 — 5 archaeologists.
Tom Lucas is the supervisory archaeologist at Southwest Archaeological Consultants who recommended Cullen for the promotion. He supervises her work.
“Sara’s education combined with her energy and enthusiasm for archaeology make her a good candidate for advancement in the field,” Lucas said. “She’s still learning the ropes of fieldwork and is a quick study. Sara’s strong work ethic makes her stand out.”
Lucas said archaeologists work long hours away from home, often in adverse weather conditions. He said Cullen works well in these conditions, and is still upbeat after a hot, dusty day of fieldwork.
Cullen is working at a Southwest Archaeological Consultants excavation to inventory the cultural resources on a remote site that is part of Peabody Energy’s El Segundo coal mine about 35 miles northwest of Grants, N.M.
“The cultural resources on the site date back to approximately A.D. 400 — 1400, when ancient people from the archaic, basket makers, and early ancestral Pueblo eras passed through the area,” Cullen said. “We’re primarily finding lithics, prehistoric tools made of stone. We’re also finding ceramic pottery and other features of occupation like pit hearths.”
Cullen, a 28-year-old native of Yuma, Colo., said her ability to land her archaeology job is a reflection of the education she received at Highlands University from the anthropology professors and other faculty in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“Highlands prepared me to work as a professional archaeologist using modern implementation of cultural resource management laws and protocols,” Cullen said. “I received a well-rounded graduate education in anthropology, including lots of experience in the archaeology lab at Highlands. I also participated in two field schools that Dr. Warren Lail led at the Philmont Ranch near Cimarron, N.M.”
Lail is an anthropology professor at Highlands. Cullen worked for Lail as a graduate research assistant and teaching assistant.
Thanks to her field study experience at Highlands, when Cullen arrived at her archaeology job she knew how to use high-tech equipment like the mapping station used to set grid coordinates for excavating archaeological sites.
Cullen said archaeology has been her lifelong passion and ambition.
“I have a general fascination for finding artifacts from the past that tell about the people who left these remnants behind,” Cullen said. “Their day-to-day lives are left in these clues, that as archaeologists we get to find and preserve.”
Cullen said the hands-on science of archaeology is appealing, along with spending so much time working outdoors.
“I get so much satisfaction out of my job, whether it’s a day when we discover lots of artifacts or a slower day when we don’t find many,” Cullen said.