“Feature” Employee: Johanna Kelly

Meet Johanna Kelly. Johanna is the proud owner of an adorable black lab, she is a pretty good soccer player, and she likes long walks on the beach at sunset. Oh, and she really like bones.

How did you become an archaeologist? 

Johanna and her trowel on site in 2008.
Johanna and her trowel on site in 2008.

MUMMIES! I was addicted to Discovery Channel and TLC (pre-Toddlers in Tiaras) as a kid. I learned how to the VCR very early on and would record shows about mummies and egyptology that were on TV during the day while I was in school. I actually don’t think I even considered it to be an real life career.  I thought it was too cool to be paid to do, that people must be doing this in their spare time.  Additionally, in school I was always drawn to subjects involving biology, anatomy, genetics, history, even sociology to a certain degree.   It wasn’t until I got to my first year of university and took my first biological anthropology class that I realized that I could apply all of these things at once.  One of my favourite things about being a biological anthropologist, and anthropology in general, is that I have the opportunity to explore and pull information from so many different disciplines.

Where did you go to school? 

I went to McMaster for my undergraduate degree, and my Masters is from U of T.

If you weren’t an archaeologist, what would you be? 

A professional puppy petter. No really. I have a problem. Being a vet would be pretty great. Alternatively something artistic would be cool, but you have to have a little thing called talent for that. Really though, I found my sweet spot in bioarchaeology.

Who is your favourite historical figure and why? 

Rosalind Franklin. Pioneer molecular biologist!  Henry Gray is a very close second, a nineteenth century anatomist and surgeon, his anatomical illustrations are haunting and beautiful. My copy of Gray’s Anatomy is well loved.

If you were an artifact what would you be? 

A chatelaine; I like to think I have a lot of handy tools in my brain tool belt. (http://www.neatorama.com/2013/05/23/The-Chatelaine-An-Antique-Multitool-for-Women/)

What is your favourite site memory? 

I was working on a site located very close in proximity to the Don Jail cemetery, which we had finished excavating the year before.  We normally get quite a few pedestrian visitors that come by sites, especially urban ones in high traffic areas, to check out what we’re doing and express shock at archaeology happening in their very own city! A man and his two (very) young daughters stopped by one day to ask about what we were doing. Once I had given them a brief overview of the site the father asked me if I had heard about the “bodies they took out” over at the jail next door.  I told him that I had actually been involved in that project and sort of glanced at his two daughters, wondering how much detail he was going to be comfortable with me sharing in front of his little ones.  He saw me and laughed and said “these are two of the most Goth little girls you’ll ever meet, they love skeletons, they followed all the newspaper articles written about that site!” I got grilled by these two tiny girls, wanting to know everything about skeletons and cemeteries and bioarchaeology. They are going to be some badass women.

My least favourite thing about archaeology is… 

…the tan lines. I tan very easily, even when applying sunscreen multiple times per day (very important!).  Before I figured out that long sleeves and pants actually keep you slightly cooler than t-shirts and tank tops I was a mess to look at.

My favourite thing about archaeology is… 

…no two days are alike! I live for the moments when Ron comes into the office asking if I have my work boots with me, or the early morning/late evening phone calls that are vague and foreboding.

To pass the time on site, I… 

…quote movies/tv shows endlessly, and dote on anyone who has a good, entertaining, and long story to tell. Or try to learn new skills, with such a diverse group of people you’re bound to have someone with a unique talent – I’m still trying to match Andrew Clish’s juggling skills.

When I’m not working, I like to…

…hang with my dummy of a dog, play sports, cook, knit, lie in hammocks, engage in general tomfoolery.

My motto is…

…laugh and read. A lot.

If I could go back in time and excavate any site in the world, I would choose… 

…NOTHING! Cool stuff is still being uncovered every day! Sacrificial victims in cenotes in Central America, King Richard III in England, Neandertals using bone tools! And those are just in 2013 alone.