One of our distinguished PhD alums, Dr. Sue-Je Gage, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2020, has had a residency established in her name. The Sue-Je Gage Sunlit Residency honors her legacy by offering short term residencies in her former home in Ithaca, New York. This is a new residency program created in the name of Dr. Sue-Je Lee Gage. More information can be found here. Many thanks to Emeritus Professor Anya Royce for working to establish this residency.
Tributes and Remembrances
Tribute for Cameron Scott Griffith
Guest written by Gabriel D. Wrobel
Professor of Anthropology, Michigan State University
The IU Anthropology department has lost one of its family. Cameron Griffith, a PhD candidate, carried out research on cave use by the Maya and was a core member of the archaeological community in Belize. I met Cameron in 1994, when we both were staff members on Dr. Jaime Awe’s Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance project. We became quick friends, and I later encouraged him to apply to IU where he studied with Anne Pyburn and Della Cook, among others. While I ended up working at the remote site of Chau Hiix in northern Belize under Dr. Pyburn, Cameron remained with Dr. Awe’s BVAR project centered in the bustling town of San Ignacio, which has always served as a hub for Belize archaeology. It was here that Cameron found a true community and was perhaps most at home. Cameron was gregarious, funny, generous, and often outrageous, and was well-known among archaeologists and Belizeans alike. It’s fair to say that he was a bit of a celebrity. When I’d visit him in San Ignacio, it was hard to get anywhere because everyone would stop and talk to him and he, of course, would reciprocate.
Cameron’s research quickly turned from settlement to caves when he became a field director for Dr. Awe’s Western Belize Regional Cave Project in 1995. His work on that project surveying and documenting caves in the Roaring Creek River Valley helped to create a set of foundational knowledge that still guides much of the current cave work in the Maya area. Beyond his research, he was deeply committed to communicating the project’s findings and to preserving cave sites. In this vein, he helped Dr. Awe to establish training for tour guides at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a major cave site that now attracts thousands of visitors a year. In his later work in the Macal River Valley, he identified rare Archaic period primary contexts at Actun Halal and documented examples of rock formations that had been modified, often subtly, into crude sculptures, which had been largely overlooked. His legacy will be forever entwined with Belizean caves, not only because of the important research he carried out, but also in the continuing work of a generation of archaeologists who he helped train and mentor as students, many of whom hold prominent positions in the Belize archaeology community today. His enthusiasm for cave archaeology was contagious and he, in fact, played a large role in my decision to establish a project of my own in the same region. He generously donated his knowledge of logistics and introduced me to his extensive social network to help me get started. Following the end of his field research, he continued to share his love for Belize and its culture by leading cultural tours along with his wife, Lauren, who was a fellow student in the IU anthropology graduate program (now faculty in Anthropology at Texas Tech University). They have two sons, Harper (age 8) and Roland (age 3), who truly were the light of his life.
Since I heard the news of his passing, I have been in touch with dozens of our mutual friends from IU, Belize, and elsewhere. The collective grief we share is deep, but also attests to the impact he had on so many lives. Archaeologists are storytellers by nature, and he will live on in remembrances shared in field camps, excavation sites, bars, homes, and, of course, caves. You are missed, my friend.
The Anthropology Department wishes to express its deep sorrow about Cameron’s passing, and extends heartfelt support to IU alum Lauren Miller Griffith and her and Cameron’s sons as they heal.
Tribute for Jonathan Hill
We are saddened to hear the recent news of IU alum Dr. Jonathan Hill’s passing. Jonathan was Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University. At IU he worked with Emilio Moran, Ivan Karp, Anthony Seeger, and John McDowell.
A more detailed tribute will follow in next year’s newsletter.