In Class News

February 17, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Students Get Hands-on Experience at Archaeological Field School

Overhead shot: Students and community members excavate a site in the Wayne National Forest as part of the Archaeology field school.

Students and community members excavate a site in the Wayne National Forest as part of the Archaeology field school.

From Ohio University News

For more than 30 years, the Field School in Ohio Archaeology at Ohio University has trained hundreds of anthropology students how to excavate and preserve artifacts from southeastern Ohio sites that may range from privately owned farms to the Wayne National Forest.

The Field School offers students a summer field work experience every other summer, as well as opportunities to conduct research on the artifacts in a new laboratory facility on the Athens campus during the semesters in between. In addition, the anthropology students work with community members across southeastern Ohio to help identify and describe newly discovered cultural items of significance to the region.

It’s a perfect training ground for the next generation of cultural resource managers, charged with protecting the history left behind by early Americans thousands of years ago. Cultural resource managers are employed by government and private entities to evaluate sites prior to excavation or construction work.

Undergraduate student Olivia Baumgartel said a summer with the Field School “definitely set me on my career path. I found what I want to do for the rest of my life this summer.”

“Through our field schools, we train students in all techniques—site discovery, survey methods, excavation and mapping,” said Dr. Joseph Gingerich, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Ohio University, who directs the field school. “We also like to try to expose students to as many time periods as possible.

“Students can have an opportunity to record a historic homestead, but also work on prehistoric sites that range from 1,000 years old to 6,000 to 7,000 years old,” he added.

Dr. Joseph Gingerich and students in the anthropology lab.

From left, Maddie Hale, Dr. Joseph Gingerich and Olivia Baumgartel in the anthropology lab.

Uncovering the Past in the Wayne National Forest

During summer 2019, the field school worked in partnership with the Wayne National Forest to further study sites in the Monday Creek watershed. Thirteen undergraduate students excavated two sites that dated from the Late Archaic (4,500 to 2,500 years ago) to the Middle Woodland period (about 2,000 years ago).

The excavation required students to use technical skills learned in the classroom, such as reading a compass to map out the locations where the team would dig 1 x 1-meter squares, said Brock Bolen, an anthropology major involved in the 2019 project. On site, the students carefully sifted through the soil to identify items such as stone tools, cataloging and marking items for more detailed examination back in the lab.

“There is a precision to slowly taking small amounts of dirt at a time—and to not damage anything in the process,” Bolen said.

Although the dig requires students to engage in challenging, physical labor, Baumgartel added that she enjoyed the experience. Not only did she learn how to execute the key stages of a professional archaeological excavation, but the school taught her how to work well with a team of colleagues.

Both Bolen and Baumgartel went on to work with Gingerich on another field site during fall 2019. At a location where the university and local nonprofit Rural Action hope to build a facility that can turn pollution from old coal mine runoff into paint products, the archaeological team surveyed the property for items of cultural significance.



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