Evan Parker thinks slowly. His handwriting is bad, but he writes everything down. That's the way a good archaeologist works: detail-oriented, and mindful to a fault. Never quick to jump to conclusions, the archaeology reveals its secrets of human behavior slowly. Evan seeks to understand the way that artifacts interact with the built environment through close analysis of context---without the frame, the picture means nothing.
For seven years Evan worked at Escalera al Cielo in Kaxil Kiuic (located just a couple of kilometers from Yaxhachen, Ko'ox Boon's outreach community), answering questions concerning the fall of the ancient Maya civilization. Now, Evan is setting out on his dissertation research in the Anthropology program at Tulane University, where he will tackle "an awesome opportunity to work on the question as to how Maya civilization developed." He'll be digging a small, pre-classic site near Kiuic, called Paso del Macho. The site is thought to have been founded around 700 BC, which will take Evan more than a thousand years back in time from the archaeology he's always known, forcing him to explore questions he's always had. "Ideas about the origins of inequality have always fascinated me," Evan says, "and this project affords me my first opportunity to explore those ideas."
Beyond a professional commitment to archaeology, a profound investment in the local community driven by relationships with colleagues fuels Evan's connection with Yucatan. Friendship with the local community and a deep love for panuchos led to Evan's involvement with Ko'ox Boon. Now, we welcome him to the team as a member of our Board of Directors, and we can't wait for you to get to know him as well as we do. Without further ado, here's sitting down with El Gusano, Evan Parker:
One road to drive down forever: I've got a real soft spot for any backcountry Mississippi road. Specifically Pike 93 Central in Pike County, MS.
Favorite Jackson restaurant? Cool Al's.
A metaphor for how you feel on Friday afternoons: A rubber band pulled to its maximum extent, waiting on the weekend for its release.
Your favorite art projects as a kid: Finger painting, I think it's so visceral.
Beer or wine? Beer, always beer. I'm not terribly picky either, but I think what I want to drink is largely driven by context. One of my favorite parts of working in Mexico is the beer. It's typically light, and a little skunky, but in the heat, it's absolutely perfect. Microbreweries are booming in Louisiana and Mississippi right now, and they understand what it takes to make a truly Southern beer. I feel like I can't capture the same experience with wine.
Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I remember being a young boy and falling in love with the history of the American Civil War. I would read Civil War histories by the dozens. But one year I finally had the opportunity to visit the Vicksburg battlefield, and I think it was a formative experience for me. Being able to walk on the same ground as those soldiers and gaze upon their battlements and weapons made history so much more tangible to me. It's something that cannot be obtained from books alone. I think that experience laid the foundation for my interest in archaeology, a field of study so dependent upon space, place, and materiality.
If you were to anamorph… I've been told that my spirit animal is an iguana, so I suppose that's only appropriate.
What triggers your “aha” moment? Normally the only moments when people say they see me truly excited is when I have an "aha" moment, and it's typically followed by a torrent of manic explanations regarding my eureka moment. Typically these occur when I'm doing archaeology. Often the artifacts and architecture we're excavating can be baffling, but when the pieces click, and I understand a particular event or process that was occurring in prehistory, I get that "aha" moment.
Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... I typically moan, groan, and curse the heavens and the earth for making me get up. Then I make a coffee and read the Times Picayune, and that's when everything feels just right.
Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? Mr. Fred Rogers (host of the PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood). I think the key to being a good human (and anthropologist) is the ability to empathize and love other people. Growing up and watching Mr. Rogers taught me quite a bit about empathy, and how we should all strive to understand and love others. He also believed that self-acceptance and loving yourself is an important key to happiness. Sometimes it can be tough to accept your shortcomings, but only after accepting your own faults can accept the faults of others.
How do you feel about the creative economy of Jackson? This is actually one of the things that I enjoy most about visiting Jackson after having graduated from Millsaps. Every year it seems like more artists and entrepreneurs are flocking to Jackson. Combine that with the rich artistic and musical heritage of the city, and I would say that the creative economy of Jackson is attracting people from around the country.
For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? Collaboration and exchange is one of the strengths of Ko'ox Boon. Developing connections between the local and the global promotes collaboration and exchange. Through 50/50, we can ensure that the creative economies of both Jackson and Yaxachen are supported. Considering I straddle both the local and the global, seeing a project like 50/50 becomes personally meaningful.