|The Psychology of Archaeology
When you talk to Izumi Shimada about his archaeological research [see main story], it's clear that his personality contributes to his success. Most of his Peruvian crew members have been with him for a generation. He has persuaded a host of international scientists to join him during fatiguing field seasons (his team currently includes specialists from the United States, Peru, Japan, Germany, Hungary, and England). What's his secret?
In the 1970s, as a doctoral student at the University of Arizona's archaeological field school, Shimada was a dig foreman. He oversaw a crew of young Apache men who were distrustful and grindingly poor, some of them prison parolees. Instead of eating and bunking with the dig's project directors, Shimada chose to eat with his crew, sleep in a tent, and play basketball with them after hours. On the job, he did the same work they did.
His respect for his crew was repaid with their fierce loyalty, and he learned valuable lessons in relationship-building. "You have to provide a model if you want people to work in a certain way, and you do what you can to care for them and create a social bond," he says.
In working with his Peruvian field crew, for example, Shimada has employed a mentoring system. The first men he hired were given the chance to recommend others, usually brothers or cousins. But the man making the recommendation had to take responsibility for the recruit's behavior and work quality during a two-week probation.
"They became very actively involved in educating that new person," says Shimada. "The system worked very well. By the time we excavated the East Tomb, I was working with people who had worked with me for over a dozen years and were highly skilled. They work with me to this day; I'm now working with their sons. I try to nurture those relationships."
Collaborating closely with scientific specialists, in the field and lab, also is a two-way street, he says. "That means producing multi-authored publications; spending time understanding their field, their world; going to their labs, their meetings, as much as they're coming to mine."
To keep morale high at project headquarters, Shimada relies on humor, a democratic philosophy that ignores cultural and age differences, and excellent food. "We're often called the best-eating project in Peru, but it really pays dividends," he says with a smile.
Despite the potential stresses of group living, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Working with people of different backgrounds, ages, and interests creates a very dynamic situation," he says. "I'm almost addicted to that kind of approach because I find it so intellectually invigorating.
"I can't quite imagine doing this by myself."
óby Marilyn Davis
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