An Archaeologist and a Corn Field

Memoir (4) by Professor Joe Watkins, University of Arizona, USA

View to the north across the corn field. The horse barn is the low building to the left and the practice field is indicated by the green fence to the right. Photograph by Joe Watkins.

My GSI office is on the north end of the Hokkaido University campus, and I can see my apartment complex from the front of the office building. On the northern part of this area of the campus is a horse barn and riding school, lacrosse practice field, and an experimental agriculture field. When I moved into my apartment in August, the field was planted in corn which was nearing maturity and about 2 meters tall.

My walk from my apartment to my office was about a two kilometer (1.2 miles) walk along the various streets. However, once the corn was harvested and the stalks cut down, I was drawn to the field, not only because I could cut nearly a mile off my walk home by walking straight across the field, but also because archaeologists are always drawn to vast, open expanses of dirt. I already knew there was an archaeological site along the northern edge of the horse barn area, and I wondered if there might be an extension of the site in the other portion of the field.

View to the north across the experimental corn field. Photograph by Joe Watkins.

My office colleagues were surprised I took the shortcut across the field, and they chose not to do so even when told how easy it was. Walking across the field was not something they would consider even though there are no signs against it, I suppose.

So far I’ve found a baseball, a lacrosse ball, and two butchered golf balls, but no archaeological material. I have encountered students heading to the practice field, people walking horses, and even someone plowing the field. But no one seems to pay me any attention: or maybe they think “There goes a crazy American.”