The Arkansas Archeological Survey is bidding farewell to one of our station archeologists this month. Dr. Elizabeth Horton stepped away at the start of the month to pursue other opportunities, and is founding her paleoethnobotanical consulting firm, Rattlesnake Master, LLC, out in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Survey put out its thoughts on her departure, but I wanted to put separate thanks out there.
I met Liz in 2011, just after I started with the Survey. We were called out (along with Jessica Cogburn) to assist in a forensics case that involved digging a VERY large hole in a cotton patch… in the Arkansas River Valley… in August. It was hot, humid, and done with an audience of police. It was such a hard day that it made the sack of no-longer-fresh McDonalds burgers taste like literal ambrosia. Liz immediately impressed everyone with her focus, consistency, skill, and intensity.
Over the next few years, I got to work with Liz at Block Six in Historic Washington, half a dozen small projects around Toltec, Richards Bridge out in the Delta, Elkins Ferry Battlefield, Lockesburg Mounds, the list goes on and on. In all that time in the field, I can’t think of a time that she didn’t treat her role with the greatest consideration and care, didn’t encourage the highest standards of quality in excavation and documentation. The SAU Research Station has one of her aphorisms, “cleanliness is next to good data,” posted on the wall as a perpetual reminder. Her constant encouragement to those she worked with, whether volunteers, students, or other professionals, made all who worked closely with her better. I will probably hear that sucking-wind-through-her-teeth noise in the back of my head whenever I clean-trowel a unit floor until the day I die.
On the night after that forensic dig in 2011, Jessica Cogburn guessed, quite accurately, that Liz is “not a pleaser,” which is fine. I think people put too much stock in others, particularly women, being “nice.” But, there’s a difference between being nice and being kind. And if we take being kind as being concerned about others, considerate about their needs and how we can help each other, then I think it fair to say that Liz is a fundamentally kind person who was a very valuable colleague. She worked at every turn to make us better as an organization, as a statewide archeological community, and as a profession. Her recent work through the Southeastern Archeological Conference to illuminate issues of sexual harassment and assault should never be overlooked. I haven’t met many people with her resolve and energy.
I will miss having her in the Survey, but glad she’s still out there, pushing things forward. Thank you, Liz, for what you brought to us and to me, personally. I wish you and Alem the best!