An adventurer of sorts, Ashley Lemke has traveled from the Arctic to Australia, excavating on land and under water on three continents. “I am passionate about archaeology because I love being outdoors, I love to travel, and I love to learn about the past,” says Dr. Lemke. “Learning about past cultures is fascinating because on one hand you can easily recognize how similar we all are as humans, but on the other, you can also see how different groups of people are. Archaeology combines hard and social sciences in a unique way, and there is always something new to learn.”
What accomplishment makes you proudest?
Being elected by my peers to serve as chair of the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology. I have been honored to work alongside colleagues and experts in underwater sciences.
What are you excited about right now?
Right now, I am most excited about a new project— looking for very old archaeological sites in the Atlantic Ocean! Right near an area called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the large number of shipwrecks there—including a Civil War ironclad warship!—recreational scuba divers found a unique rock outcrop and the bones of now-extinct animals, such as mammoths. I’m working with those divers to explore the site scientifically to record any evidence of past human behavior there.
What are you most looking forward to?
Every summer I teach a course called an “Archaeology Field School,” an upper-division anthropology class that is taught off campus at an archaeological site. We live and work at an archaeological site, and students receive hands-on training in excavation, mapping, and curating artifacts. This summer the class will be held at Way Ranch, a private property in San Marcos, Texas, that has many archaeological sites, some 6,000 years old. Every year I look forward to getting back out into the field and digging!