Sarah Hinkelman ‘15 is pursuing a Master’s degree in Anthropology at Ohio State University with a focus in Archaeology. Her thesis is a comparative analysis of lithic assemblages (stone tools as well as debitage which are chert/flint flakes) from Fort Ancient and Late Woodland period sites near the convergence of the Great Miami and Ohio River Valleys. The details of the thesis project are a work in progress; she still has a little bit more time to put her proposal together.
Right now she is primarily focused on coursework, size sorting some lithic artifacts from one of the sites she will work on, and trying to keep up with the workload, which includes a lot of reading and writing.
“Graduate school may be one the hardest things that I’ve done so far in my nearly 24 years on this earth,” she says. “However, I feel that it’s teaching me more about myself as an individual and as a researcher. Graduate school has also further opened my eyes to different perspectives.”
All of her courses are discussion-based and attended by students who focus in different sub-fields than hers, cultural anthropology and biological anthropology. She enjoys the exposure to these perspectives regarding archaeology or evolutionary theory, cultural theory, etc.
She points out that graduate school is about formulating one’s own ideas and expressing those ideas, something she finds both challenging and liberating.
“It is very different than undergrad in a lot of ways,” she continues. “Graduate school also allows me to move forward towards my goals of gaining a better understanding of past human lifeways and facilitating the preservation of material culture and archaeological sites so that they may be used to inform future generations.”
From Undecided to Classics, History, Anthropology
Hinkelman says she never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up, in part because she wanted to do everything!
She arrived at OHIO with an undeclared major – and parents who advised her to major in something that she loved because spending time doing something she did not enjoy wasn’t worth the time and energy.
She became enamored with Classics in the first quarter of her freshmen year. She remembers a pivotal lecture given by Dr. Tom Carpenter in Classics and World Religions about the perfect form in Greek art and architecture. It interested Hinkelman because it was science, art, and history all in one. It likely helped that she was taking Greek at the time.
“I owe Classics and World Religions for instilling in me a love of the humanities,” she says.
Her emerging plan to double major in classics and history changed when she discovered anthropology, which she describes as the perfect blend of the sciences and humanities!
The Path to Archaeology
“I never knew that I could actually become an archaeologist,” Hinkelman says, “It kind of seemed unreasonable in a lot ways, but the truth is it isn’t! It is 100% possible. I took an Introduction to World Archaeology class taught by Dr. AnnCorinne Freter-Abrams my junior year and it changed my focus and my life. That kind of sounds dramatic but true – I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t taken that class!.”
She remembers sitting in class panicking because she was sure that archaeology was what she wanted to do, but there she was – a classics major, in her junior year, and set to graduate early.
“If I had any doubts about archaeology,” she explains, “they were totally dispelled during my time in the field. I loved it! I loved being outside, getting dirty, and the feeling of holding an artifact in your hand that hadn’t been held by another person for thousands of years. It’s a thrill. In addition, I made a lot of friends (I’m actually going to my dig partner’s wedding in March) and I learned so much.”
She poured her all into anthropology her senior year, working in the archaeology lab cleaning and analyzing artifacts she helped excavate during Field School, taking as many anthropology classes as she could, and working as an intern at the Wayne National Forest supervised by Ann Cramer. During that internship she helped analyze artifacts from a Woodland site in the Hocking Valley. The majority of the artifacts she worked with were lithic artifacts, work she credits with getting her hooked on lithic analysis and stone tools.
“Nothing is cooler to me than stone tools and lithic debitage, which are literally itsy-bitsy pieces of flint.” Hinkelman continues, “My colleagues think I am crazy for choosing to work with these types of artifacts!”
Fieldwork to Grad School
Post-graduation, she worked in cultural resource management for about a year as an archaeological field technician.
She traveled a good bit, working in seven different states over the course of the past year. She learned a lot, and had very many good experiences working in the field and decided to go back to school and pursue her master’s degree to hone her analytical skills, to learn more about variation in different human lifeways, and, well, because she missed school.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without the experiences that I had at Ohio University,” Hinkelman concludes. “All three of the disciplines that I focused on, anthropology, history, and classics, have shaped me as an individual and as a scholar. I am so grateful to all of the professors that have helped me along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am without their encouragement!”