Smith Creek Archaeological Project

Oscar on archaeological dig




Assistant Professor

Project Summary

The goal of my research project was to see what the field and laboratory aspects of archeology involved. Being an Anthropology student, I would learn about ideas and read about field experiences in class, but thanks to this project, I was able to go out into the field and really experience what an archaeologist does.

While in the field, I learned so much more than I ever did in a class. I learned the procedure of being part of an excavation, as well the terminology involved with being out in the field. This can be as something as a zone (which is the cultural level that we use to identify past human activities), or the Coles Creek (a period around 700 – 1200 CE). I had never taken an anthropology class that focused on North American archaeology, so this was a great eye opener.

I do admit that when I was first out in the field, I was very lost, and I did not know exactly what I was doing. But as the days went by, I learned important skills that allowed me to connect my knowledge from classes to my experience there in the field. For example, I would often be using a Munsell Color Book to note down the soil in which we were excavating—in my classes, I would be using a Munsell to note the color of artifacts. Another skill I gained was how to properly use the tools in an excavation. My favorite tool was the trowel, because it can be used in several different ways and produce different tasks.

My experience did not stop in the field. I came back to Philadelphia to work in a laboratory in the Penn Museum. I thought that I knew a great deal about the museum prior to my research, but after, I knew that there were so many things I was oblivious to. I had never noticed the laboratories next to classrooms I have sat in. I never realized how big the collections were that the museum had in storage. All this further excited me to continue in archeology.

In the laboratory, I had the chance to look more closely at the artifacts we had found in the field. We first began by cleaning the artifacts, and to my surprise, we were using toothbrushes. In my head, I thought we would be using some “high-tech archaeology brush” but I found it interesting that lots of common objects are used. We also had to log all our data from the field, since archaeology is a destructive science.

Thanks to my mentor, Dr. Megan Kassabaum, along to her TAs, as well as all the other people who were in the field with me, I am determined to become an archaeologist.