I’ve been working with the North American Archaeology Lab at the American Museum of Natural History for 5 weeks already. The summer is flying by! I’ve really enjoyed my time working here so far; each week offers something new to do and to learn about St. Catherine’s Island and about the more general field of North American archaeology. Since my last post, we have been having reading discussion groups one morning a week to talk about articles pertaining to the site or the types of materials we have been working with. This has been a great opportunity to get some background into what we are handling, and the craft and culture behind it, as well as how it sometimes related the archaeology of St. Catherine’s to people inland and along the East Coast. These articles often bring up unanswered questions and theories surrounding the island and the Gaule people as well as their relationship to the mission.
In terms of work in the lab, every day I’m doing something different ranging anywhere from cataloguing, to searching for artifacts, to transcription. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the internship since my brief experience in the archaeology lab at Brandeis has been cleaning and recording artifacts. In the past few weeks we have done some cleaning, but the range of tasks that needs to be done over the summer is much larger than that, which I think is part of what makes the internship so interesting every day; there are a lot of smaller projects within a larger plan for the summer. It’s certainly different from my academic life at Brandeis where most of my contact with archaeology is through articles and papers on subjects that usually cover several various sites rather than a single period or culture. While these skills are very useful, working in the North American Archaeology Lab is teaching me more hands-on skills for the organization and categorization of artifacts and of the excavation itself that go hand in hand with articles written about the site. I think this is applicable well beyond the lab in terms of learning new methods of organization and working with your peers. I think one more skill that I think will be applicable beyond the lab is being able to be flexible in whatever you are doing, and being able to move between projects and learning to point out potential issues. I’ve learned to move slower and double-check everything, since one wrong number on an artifact could cause larger problems down the line for the next intern or researcher trying to find the mislabeled or miscatalogued piece. Looking to the future, I have learned a great deal, simply from my supervisor’s and my fellow intern’s varying experiences in archaeology both in North America and abroad, and about the options for working in contract archaeology and continuing to study within a more specified field of archaeology.