By Jason Carrillo
Hello and welcome history friends to October’s Staff Spotlight! This month we are more than excited to showcase and spotlight the one and only Savanna Agardy.
If you haven’t met Savanna, she is the Compliance Archaeologist for the Utah State Historic Preservation office, and, wow, is she good at it! Born and raised in Utah, Savanna engaged in the natural and cultural beauties and recreation of the Salt Lake Valley from the get-go. Although occasionally distracted by her love for playing the bluegrass banjo (she’s won a state championship), it was her youthful trips to southern Utah that sparked her passion for archaeology.
Savanna has now been with State History for almost two years. Her job as the Compliance Archaeologist is bureaucratic, but essential to the preservation of Utah’s ancient history. As the state grows, sprawl threatens archaeology sites — and it’s Savanna’s job to review project proposals and other related documents and comment on their potential cultural and historical impacts on the land. And since her niche is in paleo-history, you’ll often find Savanna out in the field on the sites she is helping to preserve.
Savanna recognizes that archaeologists aren’t the best at communicating with the public with their use of jargon and diction that is often difficult for the average reader to understand. Luckily, our favorite Compliance Archaeologist has been working to change that! The Division’s ilovehistory website (http://ilovehistory.utah.gov/) is a resource for elementary and middle school aged kids to explore, learn, and become passionate about history, anthropology, and archaeology. Unfortunately, much of the formatting and content of the website is outdated, which has made it a difficult resource for schools to effectively use, but not for long. In a project with the public history team, Savanna has been working to revamp the website’s archaeology portions to make it an accessible and fun resource for youth to understand and engage in! Savanna says that these changes will allow the public to better understand and comprehend the importance of these fields, especially through specifically-tailored content.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the pursuit of degrees in archaeology and anthropology, the gist being that they are not worth it due to a lack of jobs in the field. This is a stigma that everyone has heard, and Savanna wants it to be known that it isn’t true. Utah has the highest concentration of archaeological sites out of any state in the country, and it is likely there are even more to find. Federal and state compliance laws allot resources for the conservation of these incredibly important sites, but the lack of qualified anthropologists and archaeologists in the country has backlogged compliance and future excavations.
Our current crisis isn’t the first time climate change has threatened the livelihood of humanity. Many cultures have experienced a changing climate, which puts pressures on resource security and caused civil unrest. Savanna stresses that understanding how ancient humans dealt with climate change can prepare us in the modern day. Her work in making State History’s archaeology easier to consume is an essential step in promoting that lesson. There’s a lot of work to be done, and, thankfully, Savanna Agardy is one of the people contributing!
“It’s all about educating the public and making a better future. And being able to be a part of that has been a huge honor. I think State History employees are leaving a legacy on the state, and that will be examined in the future. I hope the work that we’re doing now will be looked back at positively.”