A trowel in hand leading to campfire conversations

A trowel in hand leading to campfire conversations

Anthropology Field School

Life in the Dig '12

DeeAnne Wymer, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, and a group of BU students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site.

The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

It’s only the second week of archaeological field school, and already the skills we are learning have become second nature. Some of us have come so accustomed and comfortable to the feeling of a trowel in hand, that we even catch ourselves sitting with our hands clasped around an imaginary trowel. I haven’t decided yet whether this is incredibly cool or slightly masochistic.

This week, we finished excavating the 50cm by 50cm test pit units that would help us understand where the most appropriate places would be to excavate further. Altogether, we completed 97 test pits within the week. On Sunday, we started excavating one meter by one meter units in teams of three. So far, we have found an impressive array of artifacts including pottery pieces and assorted lithics that leave us pleased, yet eagerly searching for more.

Although our primary purpose at field school is to learn the “tools of the trade” for archaeologists in the field, we do have days off that are used to explore the local area surroundings. Last Thursday, we made a trip to Ash Cave State Park and Old Man’s Cave State Park. These two places are geological formations known as rock shelters that Native Americans were known to have inhabited. We took the day to hike around the features, check out the museums at Old Man’s Cave , and relax a little before preparing to dig the feature units.

Anthropology Field School Visiting these places was a fantastic way to put what we are studying in the field into contexts of how and where the Hopewell or other Native American groups lived. Experiencing the past this way was a great way to take a break from the exhausting work of digging all day in the summer heat, while simultaneously learning more about the environment we are living in. Additionally, it was nice to have a day where students from both schools could hike around the trails together and build group solidarity.

This weekend, for Memorial Day, the bonding between the two schools (one from Geneseo, New York and one obviously from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) continued with a celebratory cook-out. And as I am writing this, I hear the conversations going back and forth from mixed groups of students who are discovering how similar we all are as future anthropologists. In studying my fellow students, I can’t help but think how grateful we all are for these experiences. When will I ever have the chance to live outdoors with bright, young college students from another state, excavating at an incredible archaeological site? And when will I ever get the chance again to hang around campfires discussing anthropological theory and totally nerding out? Never.

This revelation led me to see that the field school should not only be valued for the archaeological training it provides, but also the intellectual environment it creates around us. Although we have only been here for a week and a half, it feels as though I have known these people for years. I can’t wait to see what new things we find out both in the field and back at the campground in the next two weeks.

    — Gabby Vielhauer, junior anthropology major