Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Student Katy Schmidt in Ohio

This summer I was able to gain experience both in a museum and at an archaeological excavation near my hometown.  First, I worked as a Museum Attendant at the Dr. John Harris Dental Museum in Bainbridge, OH. My responsibilities included opening and closing the museum on the days I worked and keeping it clean, and I also gave tours of the museum and answered visitors’ questions.

Katy on a visit to Cahokia.
I also volunteered at the excavation of a Middle Woodland Hopewell site called High Bank Works. The site is located in the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park outside of Chillicothe, OH. This summer, the team focused on excavating part of what appeared to be a large circle of post holes; however, by the end of the season we had only uncovered one post hole. I was responsible for many tasks during the excavation, including sifting, helping to measure and draw profiles of unit walls, and using a susceptibility meter, among other things.

Katy is a sophomore Archaeology major at UE.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Student Clare Pressimone in Pennsylvania

This summer I held an internship at the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA. This internship was a self-guided experience with the help of the Director of Education, Anne Corso. My job was to develop an informational packet for students, teachers, and visitors to the Ancient Greece Gallery in the museum. I focused on the eight red-figure and black-figure vases that are displayed prominently in the gallery; in the packet, I discussed the techniques used to create the vases, described the characters on them, and compared the themes to those of our everyday lives. This packet will be available on the museum's website and in the museum itself by the end of the year so that all who wish to better understand this unique collection can do so.

Clare is a sophomore Archaeology and Art History double major.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Student Josephine Curtis in Tennessee

This summer I volunteered at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, TN. The Customs House Museum currently features exhibits on fishing history in Tennessee, landscape painting by the Chestnut Group of Tennessee, great sports and challenging feats done by Clarksville locals and Call to Arms, an exhibit about Clarksville veterans of the two World Wars. The museum also offers hands-on activities for children, including model trains, a Monster Maze, Memory Lane featuring artifacts and part of a cabin from historic Clarksville, an Explorers Gallery and a Bubble Cave. My job was usually to welcome visitors and take admissions at the reception desk, although I also helped with special events like a theatre performance put on at the museum by Austin Peay State University. All in all, I loved volunteering at the Customs House Museum.

Josephine is a junior Archaeology major at UE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alumna Profile: Dani R. ('08) in Hungary and Chicago

At the completion of my first year as a graduate student in the Anthropology PhD program at the University of Illinois-Chicago, I was invited to participate in the analyses of Copper Age skeletons and grave goods from the Great Hungarian Plain. The intent of this project was to perform a bio-distance study to determine how closely related people were across the Plain. As the Plain was a major path for migration from Asia to Europe, we wanted to see how this migration might have impacted the genetic makeup of the Plain’s peoples. We analyzed over 250 skeletons from 9 cemeteries around the Plain and concentrated on identifying genetic dental traits that could statistically indicate genetic similarities or differences. We also made sure to sex and age the skeletons and we will keep that in consideration when interpreting the material. This summer was spent gathering the information, whereas the upcoming months will focus on carrying out the statistics and the interpretations of the data.

Participating in this project has exposed me to a variety of scientific techniques, facilities (museums and universities), and researchers (American and Hungarian), all of which will aid in my own research in the coming years. However, I would not be where I am today without a strong foundational education in archaeology, which I received at the University of Evansville. I specifically chose UE because it focused on Old World Archaeology, a rarity in the States, and I have never regretted my decision. The continual support from the faculty, both during my years as a student there and after, has helped me to be where I am today and for that I am grateful.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Alumna Profile: Lisa D. ('08) at Illinois State U.

After graduating from UE in 2008, I was admitted into the MA program in Historical Archaeology at Illinois State University. In addition to taking graduate classes, I held a graduate assistantship, which is a great way to earn some cash, get to know the professors, and get some experience within the archaeology world. During the summer of 2009, I participated in a graduate field school in western Tennessee, where I was able to work with the Cherokee (I am on the left in this photo, which was taken at the field school).

This past summer, I worked in Cape Krusenstern, Alaska as a student research aide for the University of Washington. I learned right off the bat that there are plenty of jobs out there if you are willing to work hard and you don’t care where you live. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have some contacts. Now I am finishing writing my thesis as well as trying to find a part-time job for the time being. I hope to graduate in December 2010 and find a full-time job with a museum or the National Park Service in archaeological interpretation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alumna Profile: Latasha R. ('04) in South Carolina

When people ask me what I do for a living I simply state, “I’m the collections manager for the local museum system.” The general response is a nod followed by confusion as to what that actually means, prompting me to elaborate with, “I am responsible for the care of the objects in the museum’s collection.” As the current collections manager for the Culture and Heritage Museums in York Co., SC, I am a part of a small, privileged team of people who directly control access to the collection, decide appropriate use, storage, and display of collections pieces, and even decide which potential donations should or should not be added to the permanent collection. On any given day, I can be found doing a number of things at CHM. I may be at my desk doing data entry for a newly accessioned object, moving a mounted cougar from off-site storage to the Museum of York County in the back of a van while my fellow drivers stare in shock, or even getting down on my hands and knees to dust off objects on display in one of CHM’s historic buildings. Not all of my time is spent working directly with objects in the collection, trying to make sure they are “happy” in acid free containers with their proper tripartite identification numbers. I am also responsible for a good deal of paperwork related to potential donations, the legal ownership and provenance of objects, and the creation of loan agreements with other institutions. However, whether I am labeling and storing an archaeological surface find or sitting in a meeting and discussing the creation of a naturalist center, everything I do helps ensure that each object in our collection will not only be accessed and appreciated in the present, but will be here for future generations to enjoy and learn from as well.

Latasha earned an MA in Museum Studies from the University of Washington.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Student Megan Anderson in Key Largo, FL

Photo of Megan Anderson by Dan Ritt with the Slobodna Field School, PAST Foundation, Summer 2010.
Archaeology is already one of the coolest-sounding professions out there; add a wetsuit and an air tank and it probably surpasses those of “spy” and “astronaut.” This summer I was privileged to attend the Slobodna Underwater Archaeology Field School with the PAST Foundation off the coast of Key Largo, FL. The Slobodna was a down-easter composite ship that was carrying cotton when she ran into the reef; a few years later, a hurricane dragged the ship and deposited it in three separate locations. The Mainmast site, where I was working, now lies off the coast of Key Largo 15-30 feet below the surface. This area was littered with pins, hull plating, sections of the keel and mast, and spar rings.

Every morning for two weeks, I got to jump out of a boat with an underwater slate and measuring tape in hand. Doing archaeology underwater is an almost indescribable experience. You have to have a telepathic connection to your team members, as the only sound you hear as you work is the hiss of your regulator and the occasional growl of a damsel fish. It’s like visiting an alien world: everything is dipped in blue light and the artifacts are ghostly things, misshapen by several hundred years of concretions and coral.

The limitations that scuba imposes on underwater archaeology are sometimes frustrating. Sometimes, after only two hours at the site, we would return to the dormitory only to realize that we had forgotten some crucial measurement that would prohibit us from being able to map out an artifact, or we would find that a section of pencil marks had been rubbed off the waterproof mylar. We couldn't just hop back down to the site or extend our time at the site the next day. However, the excitement of finally figuring out what a particular artifact was, or locking in the coordinates of an artifact onto the master site map, made up for these minor inconveniences.

Working underwater is unlike anything I've ever done. Your life depends on your team, and you count on them to get you untangled, share air if something goes wrong, and stop you from brushing up against fire coral with your bare skin. I have found my passion in underwater archaeology, and in the future I plan to study and protect underwater sites as well as present them to the public.

Click here to read about Megan's experiences at the Rio Bravo Field School in Belize this summer.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alumnus Profile: Jeremy M. ('07) in Exeter, UK

After graduating from UE in 2007 and spending a year-and-a-half working in as a field technician for a small archaeological firm in upstate New York, I chose to continue my study of archaeology by enrolling in the Experimental Archaeology MA program at The University of Exeter, UK. During my time at UE I developed an interest in ancient food and I learned that an exploration into the experimental side of archaeology was an ideal way to explore this interest.

Upon my arrival at Exeter, I quickly realized that my graduate school experience was going to be very different from my experience as an undergraduate, but I felt well prepared from my previous four years of study. The program was mainly based on the study of ancient technologies and in our practical class we learned a new technology every week, including flint knapping, bronze casting, and potting. Out of the many technologies we explored, I chose to focus on pottery. I spent many hours learning to replicate ancient pots in order to reproduce ancient cooking techniques, and this became the focus of my thesis. Based on information from a Middle Missourian site in South Dakota, I compared the efficiencies of two ancient cooking styles present at the site: direct boiling and pot-boiling with hot stones. Through my experiments I determined that direct boiling was twice as efficient as pot-boiling, the method the ancient inhabitants of this site had chosen for their fat-rendering production.

This experiment was the culmination of everything I learned in my graduate program: the fundamentals of ancient technologies, how to produce an experiment to answer an archaeological question, and how to convey results in both public and academic spheres. I have very much enjoyed my experience here in the UK from both a personal and academic perspective, and I look forward to the next step of my archaeological career.

Student Kelly Goodner at Wenas Creek, WA

For eight weeks this summer I participated in the Wenas Creek Mammoth Field School, WA. The school was sponsored by Central Washington University and headed by Dr. Pat Lubinski. The excavation focuses on excavating the bones of a 16,000-year-old adolescent mammoth; this summer was the final year of excavation, and about 20% of the mammoth has been uncovered and excavated. We also uncovered the almost complete left rear leg of a Bison antiquus. The only human artifact found so far at the site is a small piece of a flake. The goal for the summer was to remove the baulks left from in between previous units and to remove the bones left in these baulks.

During my time at Wenas Creek this summer, I was able to excavate an unidentified mammoth bone and one of the second phalanxes of the bison leg. I also learned how to use total station to map both the site and the individual bones that we discovered. This field school gave me the opportunity to meet new people from across the county and work in a completely different environment from southern Indiana.

Kelly is a junior Archaeology major at UE.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Student Rachel Lawrence at Kampsville, IL

This summer I spent three weeks excavating The Buried Gardens of Kampsville (TBGOK) in Illinois. It is a 2,000-year-old Middle Woodland site, dating between 50 BCE and 400 CE. Our excavations began at 8:30 am when we drove out to the site and ended around 4 pm. Occasionally we would be rained out, and a lab session would replace field work; on other days the heat index rose so high that we would only excavate in the morning. We also had evening labs consisting of washing and tabulating artifacts, or attending lectures on topics such as osteology. For the first week, we were given our own 2m x 1m unit, and we were eventually moved around to other units. I was later put in the Midden Pit, where I discovered, with my unit partner, a large concentration of pottery sherds that were photographed for the official report.

Because this was my first excavation – and the first for many of the other excavators – the supervisors of the site showed us how to use the trowels and worked with us individually on special techniques like digging through the clay with shovels. Most of what we found consisted of flakes and small pottery sherds, but we also found charcoal, clumps of burnt soil, lamellar blade fragments, scrapers, trade materials, larger pottery sherds, and animal bones, as well as the ever-present limestone and chunks of chert. I learned that limestone helps to preserve bone and shell, and in my final week in the Midden Pit my unit partner and I found 14 diagnostic shells (with hinges).

The bonds everyone formed were incredible. We lived in a dorm-like setting, so all of us grew close. Everyone had different stories about excavating, traveling to different countries and other experiences. It was sad to leave but the knowledge and experience I gained, as well as the contacts I made, will help me as I continue my career in archaeology.

Rachel is a junior Archaeology and History double major at UE.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alumnus Profile: Charlie P. ('04) in Minnesota

After graduating from UE in 2004 with a BA in Archaeology and History, I got married to Katie Y. (Archaeology ‘03) and we both started doing CRM (Cultural Resource Management) archaeology. We were not prepared for the experience of our first project, however, and we made some poor choices that left a sour taste.  I then found a job working as a night audit at a hotel while Katie worked as an assistant manager of a retail chain store.  After the hotel closed, we decided to give CRM another chance.  This time we were bitten by the shovel bug and have been working in CRM pretty much ever since.  During the past few years, I have had the opportunity to travel to small towns that seem lost in time and to large cities.  In both, I have been able to take in and appreciate architecture often inspired by the ancient temples, columns and sculpture that I studied at UE.

One thing that differentiates CRM work from many other jobs is that one does not need to specialize in one area or locale; you can work in Kentucky one week and find yourself in Arizona, New York or Pennsylvania the next.  Sometimes you can spend years and years with a single company and then work for only a few days or weeks with another, exploring countryside few have seen and discovering artifacts that no person has touched in thousands of years.  All of the archaeologists that I have talked to agree: there is a very special feeling that comes from holding a tool or other artifact that no one has touched in thousands of years!  This makes the freezing cold, blazing heat, rain, sweat and bugs worth it.  I also promise that you will not find a more interesting group of coworkers; you meet people from all walks of life in CRM, and they are all fascinating.  I can truthfully say Katie and I now have friends all around the world!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alumna Profile: Hilary W. ('09) at Tufts University

After graduating from UE in 2009 with a double major in Archaeology and Art History, I almost immediately drove across the country to New Mexico in order to take a summer position as the on-site archaeologist at Philmont Scout Ranch, the Disney World of Boy Scout camps. For three months, I was the director of an excavation of an Anasazi and Mexican homestead site on the ranch (I am surveying the site in this photo), and responsible for designing the excavation, training the staff, educating and supervising the scouts, processing and recording the finds, and writing a final report summarizing not only the work but also my analysis of the site. While this sounds like every archaeologist’s dream come true, I found the position to be frustrating; disagreements between my supervisors and I about the importance of using proper archaeological practices resulted in continuous struggles. Additionally, I had only participated in three other excavations previously and did not feel qualified to direct my own dig.

Soon after this, I headed to Massachusetts to start the MA program in Classical Archaeology at Tufts University. I am currently about to embark on my second (and hopefully final) year in the program. I have already significantly improved my Latin skills, of which Dr. Thomas would be proud, and have a more thorough understanding of the science and analysis involved in the field.

Hilary at Pompeii
This past summer, I served as an Assistant Trench Supervisor on Saint Anselm College’s excavation at Coriglia, Castel Viscardo, near Orvieto, Italy. Originally thought to have been an Etruscan healing sanctuary, the site was later utilized by the Romans as a bath complex. My particular trench housed the almost intact remains of a vasca, or basin, which was later filled in with rubbish deposits. Through this position, I not only gained more experience as a supervisor of a site, but I also became very familiar with various types of pottery and roofing tiles, as I was in charge of counting and weighing brick, pan tiles, and curved tiles.

Once I finish my MA, I hope to enroll in an MA or MSc program in the UK for Practical Archaeology in order to pursue a career in Contract Archaeology in the United Kingdom. Perhaps I will eventually pursue a PhD; however, for now, I’m content to follow my passion for the field and get my hands dirty again as quickly as possible.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Student Megan Anderson in Belize

There are two things I learned this summer while participating in the Rio Bravo Archaeological Survey Project Field School in Belize: howler monkeys are a lot less cute at 2 a.m., and doing archaeology in the jungle is one of the most amazing things to experience. For four weeks from the middle of June until the middle of July, I worked on the Maya site Chawak But'o'ob in the Programme for Belize Conservation and Management Area of Belize with a group of twelve other students. Staying in a base camp, we climbed into the back of trucks every morning for the 30-minute ride along the old logging road to our site. Snake guards and machetes in hand, we would march 25 minutes along a footpath into the jungle until we reached the ball court area where were working. The site itself is a commoner site built into an escarpment with residential terraces, water basins, and ritual space. Our team divided into small groups and we were able to open excavations in a basin and in front of two caves. It was neat to uncover pot sherds (and in one case a reptilian whistle) from the pre-classic period and hold a piece of history in your hand, and see the way the rock tumble would have been arranged as a wall. With archaeology, history is a tangible thing, something you can scrape up with a trowel and put into an artifact bag.

I was trained in archaeological survey at the site; I used a total mapping station, working its computer, holding prisms, and cutting down vines with my machete for a clear shot (after a day and a few good laughs at my over-enthusiasm, the native workmen taught me how to wield my tool the right way). The best part of this field school was the director's desire to instill in us the importance of using different disciplines to understand the past. For several days I crashed off-trail through the jungle with a pair of biologists and measured trees. The data they collected were used to understand what the forest would have looked like in pre-classic times.

Belize is a beautiful and interesting country, and the archaeologists who work there are passionate about what they are doing and ager to share that knowledge with students and the world. This field school allowed me to take archaeology out of the classroom and experience it in the real world.

Megan is a junior Archaeology major at UE.