Friday, November 21, 2008

SRAC Hosts a Special Day with Jack Holland

Wendy, Tom, Dick, Ted, Joe, & Jack

The 2008 meeting hosted by the NYSAA and was in Western New York at the Holiday Inn in Lockport, NY. One of the highlights of that meeting included a lithic session honoring Jack Holland. After today I can understand why.

I received a call just a few days ago from Jack who lives in Buffalo, NY and wanted to visit SRAC as soon as he could. On a side note, I recall him telling me that he was very interested in lithics in our initial conversation, and I told him that I had to make sure Ted Keir could meet him when he came for a visit, because Ted has over 100 pieces in a lithic library from PA. Jack said in a very gracious manner that he would be very glad to see Ted again and that he himself has around 30,000 pieces from all 50 states in his lithic library....(yes I did feel stupid for not knowing that!) At any rate, Jack didn't seem to mind that I was not aware of his celebrity status in the NYS Archaeology sector and in fact made it down to see us in two days after that phone call.

Question - - - Am I the only one who is amazed at the reach that SRAC has established in PA and New York?

The trip alone had to be around 3 hours(one way,) with Jack and two friends, Joe and Wendy arriving at SRAC before noon. SRAC board members Tom Vallilee, Ted Keir, and Dick Cowles spent what was left of the morning hours in the exhibit hall pouring over artifacts in the exhibit hall. When I took my lunch break from my day job, I found them at the local restaurant where they had been for a couple of hours and sat down and listened to Jack tell us about his specific interest in chert (otherwise known as flint) and how he was the only person who had chased this lithic material acrossed all 50 states and in fact has the only library that covers the whole country in his laboratory that researchers use on their own lithic materials. In fact he has been recognized by the the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, NY as a "Pioneer of Science" in 2008: "Holland has made fundamental contributions to the study of prehistoric stone tools, and the analysis and classification of the lithic (stone) materials. As a young man, Holland moved to Buffalo to work at the Ford Stamping Plant. Following retirement from his engineering position, he pursued an atypical largely self-taught second career to become a leading expert in the field he pioneered."

When I drove back over to SRAC at 5pm, I wasn't surprised that they were all still studying the collections and chatting away in the exhibit hall...In the end, Ted gave Jack a piece of PA jasper that Jack didn't have yet and I gave him a copy of my "Spanish Hill" book as well. To me - Jack gave us the greatest honor of all by making the trip and saying many times how impressed he was with what we have created at SRAC.

To sum the day up, many friendships were made as were promises to get back together soon and to stay in touch via email and phone. Tom. Ted and Dick all commented on how much they learned from Jack in just the day's visit. Although I was sorry that I could not spend the whole day with the group, I certainly can tell you that no matter the length of time we spent, we all left feeling that we had known each other for a lifetime - which is a pretty special gift in itself.

It was an honor to meet Jack Holland and to share our like passions. Although you can read about him in many articles and write ups on the web, what they might not tell you is that he is a true gentleman and a credit to world of archaeology.

He also has a really great smile!

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