My Summer in Mississippi: Archaeological Survey Field School in the Big Black River Basin

I will attempt to relate an unlikely series of events that climaxed in the experience of a lifetime. I am an undergraduate student (Junior) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham that came up through the community college system. Being my first year at UAB, I took nearly every anthropology course available, as well as volunteering in the lab each week sorting and documenting the artifact collection. This is where I first came into contact with material culture from the southeastern United States; specifically, that of Mississippi and Alabama. I was fascinated and wanted to learn more.

After a year of intensive study of archaeological theory and methodology from two top-notch professors; Dr. Lauren Downs and Dr. Sarah H. Parcak, I was ready to put some of this training to practical use. The only problem was that UAB was not offering field school this summer. Dr. Downs suggested that I consider a school in Mississippi. After much research, I concluded that Mississippi State was easily the best choice, and that the Cultural Resource Management (CRM) based approach to archaeological field survey being taught by Instructor Jeffrey Alvey was exactly what I had been looking for. I contacted and subsequently met with a very professional Mr. Alvey, applied for transient student status, and made living arrangements. This was really going to happen!

I was immediately impressed with Jeffrey’s no-nonsense approach to teaching. On the very first day, after a comprehensive lecture on sampling strategy, we were off to the field! The focus of the class is to train and prepare the archaeological student with the skills and demands required to be competitive in the field of Cultural Resource Management. That is to say—real archaeology in the real world. Being that the vast majority of work in the field of applied archaeology takes place within this context, and that the greater portion of that work consists of phase-one sample survey, I felt very fortunate to be included in the class. Whether one decides to make a career in CRM-based employment, or works as such for a means of financing oneself through graduate school, the experience gained in this course is invaluable.

One of the first tools we learned to use properly was a good sighting compass. This may sound like a small thing, but trust me, one becomes disoriented very quickly in the forest, and being proficient with a compass is essential to prevent getting oneself lost right away. We conducted our survey on large private farms that are evenly planted in agricultural fields, pasture, and pine trees for the timber industry. As these dissimilar land use purposes effect the terrain in different ways, our sampling strategy was modified and adapted as required. In forest and pasture, we employed shovel-testing, digging 30-cm test pits at 30-m intervals on any one of the cardinal directions that best corresponds to the landform being sampled. When any test becomes positive, the strategy is to transect the positive sample and shrink the sampling interval down to 10 m, then continue until two consecutive negative tests occur on any given transect. By following this pattern with each subsequent positive test pit, one may delineate the likely boundaries of an archaeological site with astounding accuracy. This pattern may be more narrowly defined by further reducing the interval distance or by expanding the area of the pits themselves.

Accurate survey of agricultural fields requires a different strategy altogether, as a land-owner is not likely to allow cash crops to be destroyed by the digging of pits. The standard procedure employed here is to walk and visually inspect the field rows at ca. 10 m spacing until artifacts appear, then to reduce the spacing and pace as required by the density of artifact distribution. Regardless of the scenario, once the occupation zone parameters have been established and charted on a grid sheet, one then fills out the site form. This entails all pertinent information about the site, including soil analysis, ground cover estimate, UTM coordinates, land-owner, etc. Although the work is rigorous and the conditions adverse, each and every day was filled with countless informal question-and-answer sessions that are so conducive to conceptual learning that one seldom considered the many obstacles or physical challenges imposed by the environment. These challenges are very real; the heat and humidity can be much more oppressive than the published data from the weather services suggest, even to dangerous levels at times. There are snakes—sometimes lots of them—there are chiggers, and always, everywhere, there are ticks. So much so that we named our crew the “Tick-Magnets” and are printing t-shirts with this logo!

Because time constraints prevented a complete canvasing of every section of land available for our survey, we modified our strategy at times to seek high-probability occupation areas for our research purposes. I was very impressed with the Instructor’s ability to locate these occupation zones by the study of topographical maps and careful scrutiny of the lay-of-the-land. Using this method, we discovered and mapped 47 previously undocumented occupation sites spanning the full range of the pre-history of Mississippi! We discovered literally thousands of artifacts, 9,000-year-old spear-points, 3,000-year-old cord-marked pottery, and everything in-between. Each another piece of the great puzzle of the archaeological record, and each with a story to reveal.

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Edison Pearce holding a prehistoric spear point recovered during archaeological survey

We learned so much so fast that space does not allow for recapping it all in this blog, but the value of the experience cannot be denied, for one crew member secured a job for a major CRM firm a week before the class was finished, and the determinate factor was the skills he acquired within this course! The work was hard and the obstacles were real, but for those of us that possess the will and determination to meet the challenge, the rewards are without compare. I made life-long friendships and expanded my social network as well as my career trajectory. I cannot speak for the others, but I came away better in every way; smarter, healthier, stronger, and more determined than ever to become an archaeologist.

-Edison Pearce

Undergraduate at the University of Alabama, Birmingham

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A Game of EBAP: A Song of Dirt and Rocks

It’s hard to believe that my 6 weeks in Greece have already gone by. This summer I worked with the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (EBAP) excavating at Ancient Eleon. The project is a Synergasia between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia and the Canadian Institute in Greece. The site directors are Drs. Brendan Burke (U. of Victoria) and Bryan Burns (Wellesley U.).

Occupation at Eleon begins in the Late Neolithic period and we are excavating the Bronze Age secondary palatial settlement. Eleon is a secondary center to Thebes. There are several exciting large architectural elements at the site: a large polygonal wall, a ramp, and a watch tower potentially from the Ottoman period.

This season’s focus was on a large rectangular building called the Blue Stone Structure, aptly named because the main building material is a type of blue stone. I spent most of the season working in trenches in this structure.  The goal was to find the entire outline of the building; and we were successful in finding another corner of it!

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Braden, being “The Mountain”, using a big pick in the trench

We worked Monday-Saturday, and our workday started at 6am and ended at 1pm (except for the last week, when a select few worked from 6am until 6 or 7:30pm). Then from 5-7pm we had pottery washing. In the 6 weeks we opened at least 15 trenches and moved a lot of dirt and rocks. The site has changed drastically since the first week and we were really lucky to have access to a drone every day. We used the drone at the end of the work day and it allowed us to document the work that has been done during the day and see changes between it and the previous day. It is an incredible resource.

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My role at Eleon included two things, assisting one of the returning trench supervisors and being the on-site osteologist.  This second role resulted in “Steph, is this human?” occurring several times a day, with the answer being “no, it’s sheep/goat.” Eventually though, I was able to answer that question with “yes.” We had one single burial and then at the end of our 5th week we found a large tomb that dates to the Late Bronze Age. Inside, we found commingled remains. Commingled remains require a different excavation method; because the bones are all put in an area together, with no detail to individuals, you cannot expose the outline of a skeleton like when there is a single articulated individual. In this situation we exposed the top layer of the commingled remains, set up a N-S grid line, and mapped in the placement of long bones and other complete bones. These mapped bones also were individually wrapped and given a bone ID. This attention to detail allows for some semblance of the tomb to be recreated later, and it also helps a lot for when lab analysis is done. Because we were working 13+ hour days, we couldn’t do any lab analysis this summer, but that just means there is plenty to do next summer!

Before I left for Greece I thought I was going to have to miss the last half of this season of Game of Thrones and was ready to hear spoilers, but luckily there were others here that watch the show.  So, once a week we crowded into someone’s room and watched the latest episode.IMG_3455

Several things about this excavation season were Game of Thrones related.  We weren’t able to make our own “House banner” but since we have our own Wall on site, a few of us made our own Night’s Watch Oath….

  • The sun rises at 6am, the day shall not end until 1pm. I shall take no artifacts against the country’s will. I shall always wear my hat and drink my water. I shall live and die at my trench. I am the watchers of the cyclopean wall. I am the trowel that uncovers the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to archaeology, for this dig and all digs to come.

One Saturday Brendan and Bryan weren’t able to be on site, which meant we couldn’t do any excavating.  We took this opportunity to visit the newly re-opened Thebes museum.  Personally, the most exciting thing in the museum was a jewelry mold that was found at Eleon a few years ago.  It was the first time I’ve seen an artifact in a museum from a site I work at.

Some last minute tips to excavation:

  • If you bring your own trowel always make sure your initials are clearly visible on the handle, otherwise someone might just put their own initials on it…

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  • If you find a small animal printed dustpan in the site equipment, ignore the haters and use it, they are actually quite useful when working in small spaces

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  • Don’t be offended when you get called someone else’s name, it happens, even if the person calling you the wrong name is your graduate advisor of 3 years (I’m looking at you NPH)

And for all my new amazing Canadian friends and colleagues, it was a pretty good summer, eh?

Stephanie Fuehr

Bioarchaeology MA student

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Archaeology in Albania

We decided to write this blog in order to present the work we have been doing through the summer. After having a nine-month experience at MSU campus, on May 6 we traveled back home to Albania. We were very curious to see how it would be to be back in Albania after being in the US, which is very different from our home country. After 21 hours of traveling, we finally made it back home. We noticed some changes but in general, things have remained the same.

On May 17 we celebrated Danny Galaty’s first birthday in Tirana with many colleagues and friends. It was a fun party!

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After spending some time with our families and friends we travelled in Ioannina, Greece to attend the International Aegean Conference, AEGAEUM 16, from 18-21 of May. Attending this conference was very enriching as we were able to get up to date with the very latest works that prehistoric archaeologists from many countries from all over the world have done in the Aegean area. Papers given at the conference were mostly focused on pottery analysis. There were also papers focused on metals, jewelry, glass, and textiles. In particular, Albania was a hot spot in the discussions at this conference. For example, our advisor Dr. Michael Galaty and Rudenc Ruka of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology gave the paper “The position of Albania in Mediterranean obsidian exchange spheres.” Considering the strategic geographic position that Albania has in Europe, many human activities, like trade, have affected this area, allowing archaeologists to study interactions between tribes during prehistory, especially during the Bronze Age. We met many people at the conference, which will be very helpful in the future. Through this experience, we got a better idea of the recent work in the field of archaeology in Aegean region.

After the conference, we left Ioannina and drove to Shkodra, Albania in order to finish one of the test excavation units at the prehistoric site of Gajtan. In Gajtan, we dug with the Shkodra Archaeological Project’s director Dr. Michael Galaty, Cobb archaeologist Sylvia Deskaj, and one of the local archaeologists Zamir Tafilica. Mike and Sylvia’s son, Danny, was also there. He stood for the first time on his own two feet while trying to sieve the dirt. After almost one week of digging at Gajtan, we found many prehistoric pottery sherds, stone tools, and house remains, like daub, which was very exciting for us. After we finished with the digging process, Mike drove the materials to the University of Tirana. Now we are at the phase of processing the artifacts.

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Anisa Mara & Zhaneta Gjyshja

Archaeology MA students

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AMEC Survey Field School

We find ourselves at the mid-point of AMEC’s 2016 archaeological survey field school, which provides a good opportunity for a progress report.  Our efforts during the field school have focused on training students in the methods of archaeological survey routinely employed in the southeastern U.S.

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Survey in agricultural field

After a little over two weeks of survey in the Big Black River valley of central Mississippi we have identified 20 prehistoric archaeological sites and two historic sites.  We have also visited two sites that had been previously recorded as “Indian mounds,” and were able to confirm that neither of these sites are prehistoric mounds.  The “mounds” are simply erosional remnants that represent geological, rather than cultural, features.  These efforts have provided students with a broad exposure to the prehistoric and historic material culture of the region (some of which you can see in the photos below), and introduced them to the methods used to identify the locations of previously unrecorded archaeological sites.  Of equal importance is the understanding students are receiving of how past settlement of the region correlates with environmental variables, and how modern land management practices have affected, and continue to affect, the archaeological record.  We have surveyed in a variety of settings including agricultural fields, pastures, pine plantations, and mixed pine-hardwood forests, which provides students with invaluable lessons about how to adapt field methods to these different environments.

Lauren Bailey and Erika Niemann screening a shovel test

Lauren Bailey and Erika Niemann screening a shovel test

Delineating a prehistoric site

Delineating a prehistoric site

Dylan Karges shovel testing

Dylan Karges shovel testing

We are eternally grateful for the generosity of the landowners who have so far allowed us to perform survey on their land.  At present, these include Joseph Guess and Tommy Garrett.  We are also indebted to our archaeological colleague, Cliff Jenkins, who is a MSU alumnus, and currently an archaeologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Through his connections to farmers in the region, Cliff has arranged for all of the land access we have thus far been granted.  Without his generous assistance it’s unlikely we would have been able to make the connections we have made to landowners in the region.

artifacts collected by general surface collection from a prehistoric site

Artifacts collected by general surface collection from a prehistoric site

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Artifacts

Stay tuned as next week one of the field school students will submit a report on the field school providing a student’s perspective on the experience thus far!

– Jeffrey Alvey

Cobb Institute of Archaeology, CRM Program Manager

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Interning at Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Week 1

My first week at DPAA has been excellent. I’ve met some amazing people and learned some new techniques for analyzing bone. For those who do not know, DPAA is where the human remains recovered from US wars are sent for identification. The remains are studied by historians and forensic anthropologists, and DNA samples are analyzed in order to identify the remains and send them home.

My first day started with getting a pass for Offutt Air Force Base where DPAA is located. My pass consists of a very official looking card with my photo on it. I have to admit that despite it only existing to get me past the security at the gate, I was unreasonably excited to have it. I played it cool, though; I didn’t want to appear unprofessional or ridiculous. So, pretending that getting an official government card was an everyday occurrence, I drove the short distance from the gate to DPAA.

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There is a lobby as you walk into DPAA where some of the artifacts recovered with the remains are on display. Boots, eyeglasses, pieces of uniforms and helmets. There is also a room where families come to receive the remains of their relative. It’s a sobering reminder of what all of this exists for.

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Most of the work I am doing at DPAA will be on the remains from the USS Oklahoma, which was bombed in Pearl Harbor. The boat sank upside down in shallow water, and although they were able to cut into the hull and get 30 or so guys out alive, roughly 400 sailors were unrecovered. Over the next decade or so, the remains were recovered, but with little provenience, and a high degree of decomposition, they were unable to sort the remains into individuals, so they were bundled and grouped and buried. Now that we have better technology, the Oklahoma remains have been exhumed and sent to DPAA Offutt to be identified. 400 burials is a lot of burials, and all of them are being sampled for DNA, CT scanned, and visually pair matched. I think I’ll have plenty to do this summer! That said, there are other individuals that are being analyzed here as well, I think most come from Europe, so likely WWII as well.

While I don’t get to do the DNA sampling, I got to spend a day this week assisting in sampling. This meant that I alternated between spraying bleach on everything (except the bones of course) and taking pictures. The big deal is, you don’t want any bone dust getting on any of the samples, so gloves get bleached between touching bone and anything else, and all surface areas get bleached between having bones on them. If bone dust from one sample gets on another, then it could result in inaccurate DNA results from the DNA lab. We were not actually extracting DNA, just taking samples so that someone else could do the extraction and analysis.

Two days this week were spent CT scanning. I did over 100 CT scans over the course of Thursday and Friday. Not bad, huh? (I actually have no idea if that’s fast or not) It was fun, and I noticed a bony deposit on one of them that wasn’t very visible to the naked eye, but super obvious in the CT scan. That was pretty cool to see.

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Part of this week I spent bagging up remains and sealing them with evidence tape. Turns out, evidence tape was created by the devil. It breaks really easily, but sticks to everything, so getting it to stay on what you’re taping without it sticking too badly to your gloves is nearly impossible. I’m sure there’s a technique that I have not developed yet, but until then, we remain mortal enemies. I hope I figure it out soon, because I’m wasting a lot of tape right now. Sorry tax dollars.

The last task I participated in this week was pair matching and aging the remains. I hadn’t done pair matching before, so that was good to learn. It consists of looking at a bone from one side of the body and seeing how well it corresponds to the same bone on the other side. On some, they are obviously different, which is easier. It’s much harder to be certain that they are the same than to be certain they are different.

A note on my living situation. In searching on AirBnB, I discovered a cheap place called Nirvana Point Wellness Retreat that had some weird requirements, such as no GMO foods, alcohol, red meat or any non-organic farm meat. It was cheap, though, and in a safe part of town, and in the woods a little bit. I decided to go for it, and on my first night here Sophia had me try out her chi machine (not chi like chi square, but chi like eastern medicine), it basically wobbled my feet back and forth while I lay on my back for ten minutes. It felt kind of good, I figure feet always need a good shake, they’ve been supporting all of your weight all day, after all. She also had me try asking a question of her Native American Spirit cards (they’re kind of like tarot cards, only with N. American animals). She got a coyote in answer to her question and I got a bowhead whale in answer to mine. Not sure which Native American group is the source of these cards. It’s a really lovely place, there’s a pool and at night I can’t see the lights from any other houses out my window. There’s a park and bike trail just down the hill from her house as well, the bike trail goes along the Missouri River for miles apparently. Makes me wish I brought my bike!

Anyway, things are going well, I’m off to a BBQ/Game of Thrones finale party. More to follow soon!

Petra Banks

Bioarchaeology MA Student

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My Summer 2016 Internship in Amman

As I am writing this blog, I have been in Amman, Jordan for about five weeks. I arrived with many expectations, like most new anthropologists entering their first field work experience. With this in mind, I consider how much I’ve accomplished (and how much I’ve adapted as well!) since I have been here, not just in terms of my work for my internship but in other aspects of my life in Amman as well.

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View from my apartment in Jabal al-Weibdeh

The organization I am interning for is My.Kali Magazine. This is an LGBT magazine based in Amman that focuses on topics such as gay films, fashion tips, and embarrassing dating stories. Reading and editing many of these articles has provided me with a window into cultural similarities and differences between the LBGT community in the US (broadly speaking) and in Amman. Believe it or not, there are many similarities.

Right now I am working on three articles that will be published in My.Kali’s upcoming issues. One article is going to discuss gay women and pornography. Specifically, why do gay women prefer gay men porn to gay women porn? Another will be about a cross-cultural comparison of common terms and phrases used in the LGBT community, sort of like an LGBT dictionary. For example, what is a postmodern lesbian or a twink? The latter article will focus on short reviews of books and articles on sexuality in the Middle East that would be of interest to readers.

While my day to day internship activities may not be routine and maybe even be unconventional to some, I’ve managed to engage in a lot of social work that will end up helping me in my thesis research next summer in Amman. Most of my duties are online where I work from home or from a café. However, I do go out often with people at My.Kali which I believe is all part of the internship as well! Doing this internship in Amman is not just about fulfilling a certain number of hours a week, but also about adapting and participating in new cultural activities as well, which can be difficult at first!

Considering this, I’ve made a lot of great connections since I have been here, many thanks to the people I know from My.Kali. This will aid greatly with my research next summer—I’ve met so many people in the LGBT community here! Perhaps more than I ever have in the US.  As I said, socialization has been a primary activity for most of my stay here so far. With this socialization in a new culture comes the partaking of eating food, which is a central activity here, as well as drinking tea, Nescafe, Arabic coffee, orange juice, and rosemary water. Aside from eating, drinking, and practicing Arabic as part of my daily social activities, I have also taken a few trips to other parts of Jordan. I’ve been (along with some friends here) to the Dead Sea, Irbid, and the Roman Theatre. Soon I plan on going to Petra, and Wadi Rum. Of course there are more activities to come!

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Many different dishes! From left to right (then down): hummus, falafel, ful, kunafa, shawarma, dolma, maqlooba, mansaf.

 

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At the Dead Sea with a mud mask

Caitlin Ostrowski

Cultural Anthropology MA student

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The Beginning of the Topper Excavation Field School

This year, MSU has partnered with the University of Tennessee, the University of West Georgia, and the University of South Carolina to run field schools at the Topper site and surrounding areas. The MSU crew is working at the Swag Site, about a mile north of the Topper site.

I strapped a GoPro to the dash of the van and it took photos every five second. About half-way through you see where we had to make a side trip to pick up another student who had car issues in Atlanta. Driving a 15 passenger van through downtown Atlanta is an adventure. (The song is “Lights On” by Big Grams).

Tuesday we had an orientation, a tour of the Big Pine Tree, Topper, and Swag sites, and then started staging gear in the lab and at the site.

Martin Tour Martin Walker (University of Tennessee) describing excavations at Topper

Wednesday we laid out our first units on the eastern edge of the Swag Site (i.e. Swag East), where we found an several overshot/overface flakes during last year’s field school. The University of West Georgia crew are working on “Swag South” – an area that produced a biface with overshot flaking last year.

Swag Map

For the MSU crew, we laid out two perpendicular rows of 1x1m excavation units off of last year’s test unit because 1) I want to see a cross-section of the sediments in that area and 2) we didn’t want the students fighting for elbow room.

Swag East Sketch

So on Wednesday morning we opened up the units…

By Thursday they were getting the hang of it…

…and they also got to see a flintknapping demo by Stephen Williams, were fed by Dr. Goodyear, and got to hear Andy White give a presentation on his research.

By Friday, the MSU students got in a groove and peeled through several levels…

…and we capped off the week with sunset over the Savannah River.

Dr. Shane Miller

Assistant Professor of Archaeology

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An Internship on the Nantahala National Forest

I am a second year graduate student in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures focusing on Southeastern archaeology. I spent the last two months of this summer completing an internship with the U.S. Forest Service at the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. My work was based out the Tusquitee Ranger District in Murphy, North Carolina, but my work took me across the entirety of the forest and much of western North Carolina.

During the first week of my internship, Andrew Triplett, the Nantahala National Forest archaeologist took some time to introduce me to the forest. We drove to many beautiful areas of the forest, one of my favorites being the Cullasaja Gorge. The gorge is known for its many accessible waterfalls and natural swimming holes and is only a short drive from the tourist town of Highlands, NC. During this week, Andrew also introduced me to my assignment. One of my primary jobs as an intern for the forest was to conduct an archaeological survey of several areas of the forest which were going to be impacted by an upcoming timber sale.

IMG_6350 Falls in the Cullasaja Gorge, Nantahala National Forest

The second week of my internship, the Forest Service’s regional archaeology meeting was taking place in Asheville, NC. Andrew and Forest Archaeologist Rodney Snedeker arranged for me to attend the meeting. During this week, I was able to see some of the most beautiful and important places in the Appalachian Mountains. We visited places like the Cradle of Forestry, America’s first school of forestry, and many places of importance to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The most interesting part of the meeting for me, though, was sitting in on the discussions with representatives from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, including Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Russell Townsend. Through these discussions, I learned a lot about concerns that tribes have with the work that we do as archaeologists. Most importantly, I learned some of what tribes expect from archaeologists working in places with historical importance for the tribe. Fortunately, I was able to witness nothing but mutual respect between all Forest Service archaeologists and tribal members in attendance at these meetings. After a day of visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and sitting in on these talks, one of the highlights of this trip was being taken to Kituwah by Russell Townsend and being told about the historic and spiritual importance of the location, as it is regarded as the most important place for the Cherokee.

IMG_6249 Region 8 Forest Service archaeologists at Kituwah hearing from THPO, Russell Townsend

For the following six weeks, I worked on several different projects. Andrew Triplett and I worked on surveying several areas on the forest for an upcoming timber sale. Unfortunately for us, we received a significant amount of rainfall during this time and we were only able to complete a small portion of timber sale survey while I was there. During these rain days, I completed the state site forms for nine different intact sections of the Trail of Tears within the forest. Through the background research for the site forms, I learned a lot that I did not know about the removal of the Cherokee from western North Carolina. Andrew and I also went to many locations to monitor archaeological sites for vandalism and erosion. These were some of my favorite days as it provided me the opportunity to see many beautiful places on the forest.

IMG_6609 An early morning view from Albert Mountain fire tower

This internship has been a great experience for me. I was able to see a side of archaeology that I have not experienced before, a side of archaeology that I enjoyed immensely. Through meeting with the Cherokee, I have gained a better understanding of the importance of tribal relations. Overall, this experience has been amazing and has definitely benefitted my graduate education.

Kelsey Meer

Archaeology Graduate Student

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A Series of Archaeological Events: Greece

From Cyprus, Nick and I traveled to Greece for a few days. Since we were only there for four days, this blog will be divided by day.

July 8 – Day 1: We began by visiting our friends Tina Ross and Bartek Lis at the site of ancient Eleon in central Greece. What started as a visit to see friends quickly became a great opportunity to analyze some of the skeletons that had been found during excavation. What was originally thought to be one individual was determined to be three, based on the age of the individuals and the number of specific bones from the same side (i.e. 3 left humeri = at least three people). After determining the number of individuals, Nick and I catalogued all the remains so it is available for future study. To learn more about Eleon click here.

July 9 – Day 2: We spent the morning at the Eleon apotheke, finishing up the catalogue we had started the previous day. We also got to visit the site, which had changed quite a bit since I had last visited in 2013. In the early afternoon we drove up to Volos, one of our main reasons for coming to Greece this year. After a long car ride, with many toll stops and hardly anyone else on the national highway (a side effect of the economic crisis), we arrived in the city. Nick and I met with Dr. Anthi Batziou-Efstathiou and Eleni Chrysopoulou of the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities of Magnesia in order to collect samples from a skeleton we had analyzed the past two years. The plan is to send these samples off for isotopic analysis in an attempt to learn more about the Bronze Age in Thessaly. And very exciting news: after two years of failing to make it there when it was open, we were finally able to visit the Volos archaeological museum! The museum did not disappoint either, it was really interesting to see the archaeology and artifacts from the region displayed together.

11749675_10155846705400253_821470029_n Volos (photo by Tina Ross)

11798364_10155846705485253_583108048_n Volos Archaeological Museum (photo by Tina Ross)

July 10 – Day 3: Originally the plan was to go straight to Mitrou from Volos, but we went back to Eleon instead to look at more of the skeletal remains. We did the same as before and determined the number of individuals and provided an age range. This time we gathered all the dentition and measured them.

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After a fantastic lentil soup lunch we drove up to Tragana, the village near Mitrou. Our other reason for coming to Greece this summer was to check some datum positions on the island.

July 11 – Day 4: Our goal at Mitrou this year was to reshoot the datum points and realign the site’s grid map. We spent the morning walking around the island trying to find datum points and successfully found two of them in the overgrown grass.

IMG_1057 Searching for the datum points

IMG_1058 View from the North side of the island

After that we were in the apotheke; Nick having meetings with people and me working on my thesis. In the afternoon we went out with Sarah Murray who used a Leica dGPS unit to reshoot the datum points. Each point took 30 minutes.

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We ended our work day by cliff jumping off the island and then having a great dinner at the Butcher’s. I ended my last night in Greece saying goodbye to my favorite Tragana dog, Pumba.

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Stephanie Fuehr

Bioarchaeology Graduate Student

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An Internship in Microbiology for Use in Bioarchaeology

This fall, at Mississippi State University, I will start the second year of my Master’s program in Applied Anthropology with a focus in bioarchaeology, and the first year of my Doctoral program in Biological Sciences. My research will involve the analysis and reconstruction of the oral microbiome from ancient dental calculus, from several different samples. These samples will be analyzed in order to examine the health of individuals in the past, as well as to determine the changes in microbial composition that occurred over time. This summer, I interned with Dr. Heather Jordan in her microbiology laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mississippi State University. One of the focuses of Dr. Jordan’s research is microbial ecology, and her work involves genomics, transcriptomics, and next-generation sequencing to examine how microbial communities function, affect fitness, and impact host health. Additionally, Dr. Jordan works with Mycobacterium ulcerans, as well as examining postmortem changes in microbial community structure.

During this internship I was trained in different methodologies, and worked on focusing and refining the research goals for my thesis. The methods that I learned, and subsequently practiced, will be employed during the data collection and analysis stage of my thesis work. The first techniques that I worked on were the extraction and isolation of DNA from soil and microbial samples, as well as using DNA cleanup kits to further concentrate the DNA and remove chemical compounds. These processes are performed to destroy the bacterial cells, remove all organic and chemical contaminants, and concentrate the DNA so that it can be used in downstream applications such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), 16S metagenomic sequencing, or whole genome sequencing. In addition to soil samples, I also worked with several dental calculus samples from early 20th century burials. The DNA was extracted from these samples, and a portion was sent for metagenomic sequencing, while another portion was used to determine if specific pathogenic bacteria such as Treponema denticola, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Streptococcus pneumonia were present. This was performed using PCR, in conjunction with specific bacterial primers, and running the results on a gel electrophoresis machine. Based on the results from the gel, we were able to determine if the bacteria we were looking for were present.

Gel Electrophoresis-1 Gel Electrophoresis

My time spent in Dr. Jordan’s lab has been incredibly beneficial to not only my immediate research goals, but my eventual career as a scientist and researcher. These research methods and techniques will be crucial to my thesis, and will allow me to cross departmental lines to conduct research into an area of which we know very little. I am very grateful to receive this training, and look forward to implementing it in future research endeavors.

Jonathan R. Belanich

Bioarchaeology Graduate Student

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