ccm3_022171

Stephen Davis

Most little boys enjoy digging in the dirt before they get bigger and start digging other things. Sports. Girls. Cars.

But Stephen Davis, an adjunct professor of anthropology and associate director of the University’s Research Laboratories of Archaeology (RLA), stayed stuck on dirt – and finding the mysteries waiting to be revealed beneath it.

As a sophomore at Carolina in the early 1970s, Davis stumbled upon the research lab of anthropology professor Joffre Coe, who was still excavating at Town Creek Indian Mound that Davis first visited as a fifth grader.

It took Davis two weeks to work up the nerve to ask Coe for a job in his labs.
Coe shook his head. “There is no money.”

“You misunderstood,” Davis responded. “I wasn’t asking to get paid. I just want to work here.”

For 28 years now, Davis has taught a five-week field school in North American archaeology at Carolina that allows students to participate in excavation, recovery, recording and interpretation of archaeological remains.

In a sense, Davis said, archaeology is like working on a puzzle with most of the pieces missing. Part of the job is to find more of the missing pieces, and part is to figure out how all the pieces might fit together to fill in the story of how people lived centuries ago.

“Experience counts for an awful lot, but you always need to maintain a certain level of humility and realize what you think you know may not be so,” Davis said. “That is why this work never gets old. It just gets deeper.”

Learn more about Davis and his work.

Other Recent Profiles

Nassib Nassar

When his fingertips touch the keys of the piano, Nassib Nassar tells a story. As he plays, he listens — …

Deepa Damre

When Deepa Damre started law school at Carolina in the late 1990s, she knew she wanted to go into corporate …

Lindsay Jaacks

The air pollution in China was so horrifying that UNC School of Medicine graduate student Lindsay Jaacks had to wear …

Jonny Leano

When UNC graduate student Jonny Leano was growing up in Maui, Hawaii, he didn’t have many opportunities to learn about …

Tracy Raines

Hometown: Grundy, Virginia Undergraduate: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Unlike many graduate students in the biosciences, Biology student Tracy …

Lewis Lucke

Ambassador Lewis, executive director of Daroke Resources and president of Lewis Lucke LLC, served as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom …

Sam Odom

Because research ties directly to the problems of everyday life, Sam Odom and his colleagues at the Frank Porter Graham …

Aaron Ernst

As part of his job, Carolina graduate Aaron Ernst canoed for eight hours down the Tuckaseegee River in Western North …

Diva Desai

Diva Desai is a marketing supervisor for McDonald’s Corporation and a member of the USA National Handball Team. She earned …