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What I do all day…

August 4, 2013

Last week I finished up a big project at work. I have been working part-time in an archaeology lab for the past few years with the professor who was also my undergraduate advisor. I love having a flexible job that gives me the opportunity to learn new skills and do something that I love. Mainly I do zooarchaeological analysis, which is the analysis of bones, shells, corals, and landsnails. The goal is to see what people were eating and to see how they interacted with their environment.  I have worked on projects from around Polynesia, in places such as Hawaii and French Polynesia.

For this project I worked with a group of undergraduates. We were analyzing a bunch of samples of shell and bone from several archaeological sites in French Polynesia. Overall the project took two semesters.  I had a great time getting to know and working with the undergraduates in the lab.

Trays and trays of bags from the field:

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First we washed all the shell:

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Then sorted them by species:

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Here they are identified, counted, weighed, and bagged:

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Next up the bone was washed:

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Sorted by element:

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Compared with known specimen (this is a mouth piece of a parrotfish):

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Identified, counted and weighed… It all sounds so easy, but in fact took months!

Looking at all these photos I’m reminded about why I love archaeology. As you dig you find lots of pieces of rock, charcoal, faunal remains, artifacts, it can be a bit chaotic. But by slowly looking through all the materials, patterns emerge and you can draw conclusions about how people lived in the past.

Making order from chaos:

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That’s pretty much what I do all day.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2013 9:11 PM

    This is fascinating. I always think of archeology, I think, in terms of discovery (and yes, digging). But the patterning and ordering of everything is probably way more important. Thanks for sharing!

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