Steward Spotlight: Darrell and Marty Thomas

For this, our first ever Site Steward Spotlight, we will be spotlighting not one, but two dedicated Site Stewards. Marty and Darrell Thomas are a dynamic stewarding duo with 20 years of professional and avocational archaeological experience under their belts. This includes helping to organize their first site stewardship program through the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Utah Statewide Archaeological Society (USAS), Salt Lake Chapter.

Marty and Darrell met in Cleveland, Ohio while Darrell was attending dental school. Shortly after that they moved back to Darrell’s home town of Salt Lake City where he began his career in dentistry. Marty holds a degree in English and later earned an additional degree in Anthropology from the University of Utah. Marty originally hails from Rochester, New York and has an impressive professional and academic background working in the field of anthropology, archeology, and history. She is also an entrepreneur, having founded and directed her own successful CRM company focusing on archaeological file searches, a very specialized and needed service. After successful professional careers spent in the Salt Lake City area, the Thomases retired to Moab, Utah. Archaeology is Marty and Darrell’s passion, and with it comes their concern for the protection of archaeological sites. Continuing their education and understanding in archaeology and related fields is a priority for them. They have accomplished this by being very active in both their community and field of interest through volunteering for organizations such as The Nature Conservancy at Dugout Ranch and attending Pecos, GBAC and Rocky Mountain Conferences. They have also been stewards for the State of Utah, NPS, BLM and Friends of Cedar Mesa. 

Darrell is currently on the board of the Moab Museum and Marty works with the museum’s prehistoric collections. These volunteer opportunities have helped them to gain field experience, including dendrochronology and site recordation. Their countless hours of service have added a great deal of value to these organizations, as well as their community.

As stewards, Marty enjoys the peace and quiet of hiking as well as the opportunity to monitor archaeological sites. Marty has a passion and appreciation for past cultures and their cultural remains. Darrell also enjoys monitoring, and the opportunities to see and experience so many wonderful sites. He has had an interest in nutritional analysis of tartar left on surfaces of prehistoric teeth that has carried over from his professional career and started long before his retirement. All together these two steward 33 sites! 

Outside of stewarding, the Thomases stay busy camping, traveling and hiking. A few of their adventures include hiking 100 miles along the Southwest coast of England in only seven days and visiting Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. Marty, Darrell, and their faithful dog Yoda also love to kayak on the Colorado River. Yes, Yoda kayaks and even has her own life jacket! 

When asked what their favorite period of history is and why, they answered:

“Southeastern Utah several thousand years ago. I would have loved to have seen the freshly painted rock art and the small campsites and villages and lifestyles during this time.”

-Marty Thomas

“This area (southeastern Utah) one thousand years ago. I would like to know what the climate was like, how the vegetation looked, and the way the people lived and why they left.” Darrell also would have liked to see for himself, prehistoric farming methods along the rivers of southern Utah.

-Darrell Thomas

In 2016, Marty and Darrell were selected by the Utah Professional Archaeological Council (UPAC) to be the recipients of the prestigious Dorman Award for Distinguished Service to the Archaeology of Utah. Over their many years of helping to protect and preserve Utah’s cultural sites, the Thomases have had many insightful experiences and opportunities to help educate the general public.   Lastly, we asked this couple if they had any words of wisdom for our readers. What they told us are gems that you can take to the bank:

“Get together outside of archaeology!”

So true; this program is about community. (connect with other site stewards as well as staying connected with the greater archaeology community)

“Look up, it’s not all just on the ground,”

is also solid advice. How many times have we missed something wonderful because we did not take the time to look up and around us? 

A big thank you goes out to Marty and Darrell for their years of dedication and commitment to respecting, protecting and preserving Utah’s cultural and archaeological past!