Kelly Long taking photos of Death Valley flowers, Spring Break 2005

Kelly Long
Staff Park and Recreation Specialist

All that kid stuff:  Sacramento born and raised, I spent my early years at a small Catholic elementary and junior high school, high school at El Camino Fundamental, and college at CSU, Sacramento. The vacations of my youth were spent scouring the beaches of various state and county parks, hands behind my back, head tilted down, walking a slow pace searching for agates, shells, and other oddities. The countless sun burns on the back of my neck never hinted at a career in archaeology.

Having fun in Red Rock Canyon

The travel guide portion: In 2000 I traveled with a friend and her family to their native home in Thailand. I spent several weeks traveling throughout the county from the sandy, white beaches of Phuket to the bridge over the river Kwai. Later, in 2004 I traveled with another friend and her family to Sri Lanka for Christmas. My entire life I had thought that the old-growth redwoods along the northern coast of California were the archetype of beauty until I saw the tea plantations and jungles of Sri Lanka. Elephants walked in the streets, crocodiles swam in the muddy rivers, giant lizards ran through the grass, and monkeys swarmed the steps of temples. Within the fantastic splendor of the jungles were ruins of ancient temples and palaces that fed my archaeological fancies. I spent two weeks in November 2006 with my co-workers traveling around the Dominican Republic. We immersed ourselves in the rich history of the land hiking to caves lined with rock art and visiting the place where Christopher Columbus landed.

Sweating it out: Whether it was the time spent debating with my fellow classmates about the principles of evolution at a small Catholic junior high school or the many summer vacations spent scouring beaches for natural oddities that first kindled a spark of passion for archaeology, I cannot say. I was not subject at a young age to any epiphany suggesting archaeology as my intended area of interest for future endeavors.

However, looking back at the jigsaw puzzle of my life, the choices I made in education, recreation, and vocation surprisingly lead to the same conclusion – the pursuit of archaeology. After graduation from CSU, Sacramento in 2001, I spent several years working as a seasonal for California State Parks and the Modoc National Forest. The time I spent curating artifacts, leading field crews, and yada yada yada created a solid foundation in archaeology.

From 2005-2008, I was employed as an assistant state archaeologist for California State Parks, which was an important turning point in my life and career. The position allowed me to travel throughout the state and experience every facet of archaeology in California. My favorite project was working with the Interpretation Division to develop a chapter on archaeology for the Junior Ranger’s Handbook. I also created a database for all of the cultural resources owned and managed by California State Parks.

To date a combined total of over 13,400 cultural properties have been formally recorded on State Park lands, and many more remain to be documented.  They include prehistoric archaeological sites that span nearly 10,000 years and reflect a variety of distinct cultural adaptations of early Californians. Some contain evidence of ancient climate change and paleoenvironmental conditions. Other heritage resources include many outstanding architectural examples, Mission era sites and structures; Chinese, Russian, African American and other ethnic properties; early Californio and American era resources; mining, ranching and agricultural landscapes; and underwater shipwrecks.  All contribute to our understanding of the development of California as we know it today, and all provide us with physical connections to our past.  Visitors to state parks can connect with Julia Morgan, Jack London, Will Rogers, Pio Pico, Col. Allen Allensworth, John Marsh, John Bidwell, James Marshall, John Sutter, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Louis Stevenson, Gen. Mariano Vallejo, Juan Bautista de Anza, Leland Stanford and Alexander Rotchev – to name only a few, through heritage resources (from The Index of Historic and Archaeological Resources).

Currently I am employed as an Associate State Archaeologist for the Off-Highway Vehicles Division (OHV). I work with a great group of cultural resource specialists and feel that the leadership and expertise of our cultural team will lead to the development of an excellent OHV cultural program. Constant training, research, and study are vital for my current occupation, and that includes ATV training! We are working on developing cultural training for OHV employees, have several general plans in development, and are working on National Register of Historic Places eligibility studies.

Generally there are two competing theories about human “nature.” The first argues that we are innocent, just, and pure, and that society eventually corrupts us. The polar opposite to this line of reasoning is that we are born into this world as hairless, chest-pounding beasts, and that society is what keeps us in line. I agree that there are two kinds of people in this world: those that believe there are two kinds of people, and those that don’t! Knowing how we humans came to be the way we are today is important for determining how we are going to progress into the future, and I think that this is the major reason why I choose to study anthropology. It is also vital that during our attempts to evaluate the past, the natural and cultural resources we analyze should be preserved for future generations to come.