Remember to Look Up
by Rachel Bilchak
As archaeologists, our eyes are usually trained to the ground as we survey and monitor, trying to catch a glimpse of an artifact. Such was the case as I wandered in the middle of the desert on a project last summer. It was near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, midday, and I was in the zone scanning the ground. We were monitoring the removal of trees in an abandoned date farm. They had warned us of snakes but left out some other important creatures...
I hear a faint buzzing noise but keep pushing down my line, my feet sinking into the sandy surface with each step. Suddenly a sharp pain under my hardhat; I remove it to find the source. As I look up, I see it; a swarm of bees heading straight for me, and they are not happy. I turn and quickly start running in the opposite direction, but flying is much faster than running. They weave themselves into my braids and aim straight for my face. The stings hit me, one after another. I cry out, “Bees!” warning my fellow monitors, and they scatter away from me. The swarm follows me as I make a beeline (pun-intended) for my truck. I make it inside, and the swarm veers off. I pull the stingers from my face and head, finally safe. Seven stings leave swollen red battle scars. Luckily I’m not allergic or this story would have had a very different ending. I hope this serves as a reminder to all in the field, the interesting stuff may be on or in the ground but it’s important to look up every once in a while because the danger may come from the sky.
Ms. Bilchak is a professional archaeologist with 5 years of experience in the environmental resources field. Rachel earned a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.S. in Public Health from University of California, San Diego. She conducts all aspects of fieldwork and her laboratory strengths include artifact analysis and reconstruction of ceramics. Ms. Bilchak is the 2021 President for the San Diego County Archaeological Society.