Public Archeology in Rural Arkansas

Rurality has been popping up in a few different places in my life recently. I have been talking with a colleague about building some course materials on rural anthropology and sociology, my

Arkansas Archeological Survey station territories with urban areas overlain. SAU territory in yellow

recently-submitted platform for the upcoming Society for Historical Archaeology’s Board of Directors elections emphasized outreach with rural communities, and I live in and work in south Arkansas… look out the window… it’s rural.

But, if I am going to talk about working in rural areas, I wanted to know how rural territory is, and, because I am curious, how rural my station territory is in comparison with the other stations in the Arkansas Archeological Survey system. Because I am me, I threw some GIS at it.

I downloaded a shapefile of urban areas from the U.S. Census Bureau, who define such things, and did some simple statistics in ArcMap.

Station Total Area (sq mi) Urban Area (sq mi) Percent Urban Area
ASU 11,503 182 1.6%
HSU 6,423 354 5.5%
SAU 7,348 75 1.0%
UAF 8,238 311 3.8%
UAM 4,967 36 0.7%
UAPB 5,957 581 9.8%
WRI 7,631 95 1.2%

So, we’re the fourth largest territory, but the second most rural behind UAM. Of course, this is just land mass, which was the easiest to calculate with the given files at hand. I pulled populations for the SAU territory, and we’re 58% rural, well above the 42% that is the state average and 19.3% that is the national average. I don’t have specifics for the rest of the state, as that was going to be a bigger data mining operation.

Why does this matter? Comparing the SAU territory to others is pretty much a just-so story, but in the larger scope, all of our stations work with primarily rural territories in a state that has a rural population twice the national average. That creates a different working context than our colleagues on the coasts (East, West, and Gulf). Somewhere, Robert Earl Keen’s “Out Here in the Middle” is playing in the background…

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