Currently the Director of the Native American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Joe Watkins is a Choctaw Indian and one of only a small group of American Indians with a Ph.D. in Archaeology. As a young boy growing up in southeastern Oklahoma, Joe found a two thousand year old stone projectile point while walking in the woods. Joe's grandmother, who spoke only native Choctaw, told him it "belonged to the people before our people." Immediately enthralled by that discovery, Joe found his passion. Since then, Joe has logged more than forty years of archaeological experience. He also serves as a mediator between various academic disciplines and members of Indigenous groups worldwide. Joe's current study interests include the ethical practice of anthropology and the study of anthropology's relationships with descendant communities and Aboriginal populations. He has published two books aimed toward creating an awareness of Native American issues among high school students. Joe also has a keen interest in experimental archaeology, which uses replica tools to discover how people of the past went about the activities of daily life.
Time Team Q&A
I can't say there's any ONE thing I've dug up that's better than the rest. I liked touching a stone tool 100,000 years old. I marvelled at American Indian pottery that looked as though it was created yesterday. Each artifact tells a story, and those stories are built one upon another to give us a history of human past.
Secret Dig Kit Weapon
A 4-inch rectangular trowel is my favorite tool — it can create square corners, can slice through deposits as quickly as I need it to and it can flick centipedes out of dig units.
It's difficult to name ONE favorite site (although it is easy to name some I didn't like working on) because each had their good points and bad ones. Probably the favorite site I worked on was the Dutton Site in eastern Colorado, not necessarily because of the archaeology at the site but because of the close relationships that developed between a great crew of people in the hot and stormy excavation season of the summer of 1976.
When did you first know you wanted to be an archaeologist?
I initially wanted to be a paleontologist. At age 10, I was walking with my grandmother on our family homestead in SE Oklahoma and found an Archaic age projectile point. My grandmother told me it was from the people who lived in the area before the Choctaw did, and that it was important that we not forget the unwritten history of those who were there before us. I went into archaeology at 18 years old, and I see it as my job to keep the unwritten history of North American Indians from being lost.