PROFESSOR STEPHEN DAVIS' EARLIEST MEMORY OF EXCAVATING WAS DIGGING UP THE REMAINS OF A HORSE. "I PLACED THEM IN A WAGON, CARTED THEM HOME AND TOOK THEM TO SCHOOL FOR SHOW AND TELL, ANNOUNCING THAT I HAD DISCOVERED A DINOSAUR," HE SAYS. AT THE AGE OF EIGHT, HE DIDN'T YET KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PALEONTOLOGY AND ARCHEOLOGY.
While his interest in archeology was evident at an early age, he didn’t actually consider making it his profession until an introductory course at UNB. It was Professor Biernoff’s ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ course that solidified his passion for what had began as a boyhood adventure. “He became my mentor and guided me towards archeology.”
These days the tables have turned and it is Dr. Davis himself who is igniting that same passion for archeology in his students at Saint Mary’s. He has found his niche in teaching and researching where he can continue his field research, while sharing what he has learned with students.
Years ago while conducting a field project along the Canso Straits, he learned that a nine-month contract position was available at Saint Mary’s. He applied and “27 years later I’m still here.”
“The best part of teaching is watching students take an interest in the subject,” he says. “I’m fortunate in having a discipline that has a strong exotic element that attracts students.”The Anthropology program at Saint Mary’s is unique in that it is the only school in the region which teaches all aspects of anthropology: socio/cultural, linguistic, physical and archeology.
Dr. Davis is the first Canadian and one of the only full-time academic archeologists to focus on research in Nova Scotia. His work as a result is diverse. “I’ve worked on sites representing the first inhabitants (11,000 years-old) to fairly recent historical events.” Lately he has been researching the anonymous individuals in history – notably the freed black loyalists in Birchtown, the Irish on the Shubenacadie Canal and the clearance of Scots from the Hebridies.
This work has been supported by the private sector. For example the work in Birchtown was initiated by contracts with Nova Scotia Power. While installing a transmission line through the area, they discovered a number of sites. This was followed by a request from the Nova Scotia Human Rights commission to determine if sites would be impacted by the construction of a landfill site in the same area.
He says the offshoot of the contract work has been a number of field schools and employment opportunities for his students and alumni of the program.
Welcome From The Dean of Arts
Next year (2002) Saint Mary’s University will celebrate its 200th anniversary. We are tremendously proud of our long tradition of teaching, research, and outreach to the community. We are particularly proud of our students and graduates who have helped shape the culture of our University, contributing to its reputation for commitment and excellence.
As in previous issues of SMARTS we once again feature recent arts graduates and current students, revealing through their stories some of the interesting employment opportunities available to those pursuing an arts degree. In this issue, we also introduce you to two of the many professors whose dedication and support have been essential to our students’ success.
Reading these stories, I was struck by a number of things such as the tremendous demand placed on students’ time. Many students these days are busy combining work and study, family and other responsibilities. Their schedules are packed; their time is limited. As you will see in our stories, professors know and understand that students have obligations outside of school making the close contact students have with faculty at Saint Mary’s even more valuable. Combining the active support of the faculty, with their own hard work and imagination, and the help of their families, these students have already achieved great success in their lives and work. Their accomplishments are noteworthy and deserve acknowledgement. I’m sure you will find these stories as interesting and encouraging as I do. Think Arts! Think Saint Mary’s!