Ryan Gifford spent his time studying Geography and Anthropology. After graduating with his master’s degree in Geography, Gifford returned to work in the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program (ITARP) as a cultural resource archaeologist in December of 2006. Gifford had been working there on and off since 1999 while earning his degrees at SIUE. It was important for Gifford to stay in an area for which he had such a great appreciation. Gifford is employed by the University of Illinois who operates the ITARP. He also works for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). “We conduct archaeological mitigation on prehistoric and historic sites that will be potentially impacted by new construction,” Gifford explained. Gifford was drawn to this career because “no two days are the same, and I am often working outside at different sites,” said Gifford.
Gifford is currently working on expanding a chapter of his Master’s Thesis for publication by the Journal of the Illinois Archaeology Survey, a society of professional archaeologists, and other technical professionals, dedicated to identifying and preserving important archaeological resources throughout the state of Illinois, of which he is a member. “It is on the utilization of a certain type of shale (a soft stone formed from ancient clay deposits) found in the Edwardsville area in the making of both bricks during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and in Native American pottery during the Late Woodland period (circa 850 AD),” said Gifford.
The most significant change that Gifford has seen in archeology during his career has been the consolidation of archaeological research and work by the University of Illinois. Though he loves his work, Gifford commented that a career in archeology is “no way to riches!” However, Gifford explains that the job is very fulfilling, many great people are in the field and it is a great choice for someone who loves the outdoors.
While attending SIUE, Gifford received the One Step Beyond Award for his work at a field school in Virginia during the summer of 1999. Student loans and a graduate assistantship with Dr. Wendy Shaw made his education more affordable and offered a wonderful experience. “Perhaps my favorite professor was Dr. Wendy Shaw; she had a great teaching style and was always an inspiration to me,” said Gifford. He also mentioned Dr. William Woods (now at the University of Kansas) as being incredibly knowledgeable in the fields of geography, soils, and archeology, and continually challenged him. Gifford went with Dr. Woods to a field school at a medieval castle in Belgium in the summer of 2003. This is also where Gifford met his wife Amanda.
Outside of his career, Gifford loves the outdoors – fishing, camping, bicycling, and hiking. He and his wife love to travel and are planning a trip back to Europe in the near future. Gifford enjoys his aquariums and also is a local DJ in St. Louis. He has even begun brewing his own beer.
Article appeared in the 2008 edition of Arts & Sciences Today