• Real-World Geography: Dr. Lisa J. Lucero

    Lisa Lucero is an archaeologist.

    Photograph by Bil Phillips, courtesy Lisa J. Lucero

    By Stuart Thornton

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    EARLY WORK

    Lisa developed an interest in anthropology and archaeology from reading historical novels and fiction. “I would read voraciously anything I could get my hands on,” she says. “I just remember being fascinated by humans and how we work as a society versus as individuals.”

    She didn’t have many hands-on experiences related to her future career while growing up in Lakewood, Colorado. “We didn’t have a lot of money to travel, so I traveled through books.”

    MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

    Lisa loves traveling and talking to other archaeologists about what they do. She gets enthusiastic about unearthing new artifacts. “I still get excited at finding stuff, whether it’s a broken piece of pottery, a shirt or anything.”

    MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

    “Applying every year all around for funding.”

    HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY

    “Geography is how we engage with the landscape. . . . How people use the landscape and perceive it. And interact with it. And engage with it. Use it. Abuse it. Live with it. You name it.”

    GEO-CONNECTION

    Lisa says the Maya didn’t separate their landscape from their society. She attempts to view the natural world the way the Maya did. “I see geographic features as cultural features,” she says.

    Over the years, Lisa has discovered—particularly through the work of cave archaeologists—that the hardest geographic features to reach often contain the greatest artifacts. “They’ll [cave archaeologists] see a ledge that looks impossible to get to,” she says. “They learned early on to get to it because the Maya sure as heck did.”

    Lisa uses modern geographic tools including GIS and GPS technology in her work, but she pores over maps to determine the patterns of Maya settlements within certain regions.

    SO, YOU WANT TO BE AN ANTHROPOLOGIST OR ARCHAEOLOGIST

    Lisa suggests that students should learn languages and how to use GIS technology in addition to taking anthropology and archaeology courses.

    GET INVOLVED

    For families interested in learning about Maya culture firsthand, Lisa suggests traveling to Belize and taking one of many tours of the country’s historic sites.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anthropologist Noun

    person who studies cultures and characteristics of communities and civilizations.

    archaeologist Noun

    person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.

    artifact Noun

    material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

    cave Noun

    underground chamber that opens to the surface. Cave entrances can be on land or in water.

    determine Verb

    to decide.

    engage Verb

    to interact with.

    enthusiastic Adjective

    excited.

    expedition Noun

    journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

    fascinate Verb

    to cause an interest in.

    frequent Adjective

    often.

    geographic information system (GIS) Noun

    any system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on the Earth's surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: GIS (geographic information system)
    Global Positioning System (GPS) Noun

    system of satellites and receiving devices used to determine the location of something on Earth.

    grant Noun

    money given to a person or group of people to carry out a specific project or program.

    historical novel Noun

    work of fiction based on facts in history.

    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    Maya Noun

    people and culture native to southeastern Mexico and Central America.

    perceive Verb

    to understand, especially by viewing.

    pore Verb

    to read or study very carefully.

    pottery Noun

    pots, vessels, or other material made from clay or ceramic.

    sacred Adjective

    greatly respected aspect or material of a religion.

    unearth Verb

    to dig up.

    voracious Adjective

    eating or hungering for large amounts of food.

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