A forest archaeologist with the USDA Forest Service based in Winchester, KY, Cecil R. Ison conducts his research in the Daniel Boone National Forest. His work includes demonstrating how archaeological resources have important practical applications to an ecological approach in land and resource management. In his current project, he is researching the role fires associated with prehistoric people might have played in the development of modern forests.
A Kentucky native, Cecil describes himself as one of the few fortunate enough to live on the farm I was born on. He began his career with the federal government straight out of Rowan County High School, going to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a fingerprint technician in 1968. After serving in Vietnam, he went on to college with help from the GI Bill. He has a two-year degree from Trinidad State Junior College, where he majored in museum technology; a bachelors degree in anthropology from Adams State College in Alamosa, CO; and a masters in anthropology from the University of Kentucky.
Along the way, he began doing field work in archaeology, working on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake project in Colorado in 1974. After completing his graduate work, he became a staff archaeologist with UKs Cultural Resource Assessment Program. He joined the Forest Service in 1980 and has been at his current assignment since 1983.
Cecil says he never really thought much about a career in archaeology when he was attending school. But the Daniel Boone National Forest offer seemed like the best of all worldsbeing able to continue to live on the family farm and practice archaeology in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.
An archaeologists job, according to Cecil, is to look through the small pinhole into the past .... While we will never know the names of the great leaders or what language they spoke or the name they called themselves, it is through archaeology that we experience a small piece of the human saga that has been going on here in Kentucky for at least the last 13,000 years. That is what makes it all worthwhile.
Cecil also serves on the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission, representing governmental cultural resource issues.