This summer I am working, along with 6 other interns, at the North American Archaeology Lab at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The work of the interns varies each summer, but usually revolves around the artifacts, materials, and past research from the site at St. Catherine’s Island in Georgia, USA. The site at St. Catherine’s is significant because we can see around 5000 years of human habitation, relatively untouched until European contact, and there is still little modern activity or development on the Island. Some important areas of the excavation center around the Mission Santa Catalina de Gaule as well as the history of the native people of lived on the Island.
The goal for the interns this summer is to make it possible for the artifacts that have been brought to the lab from excavations over the last 10 years to be moved back down to Georgia in the Fall. The duties of the interns vary daily and weekly, but they will include consolidating and reorganizing the artifacts in the lab from the last several years of excavations on St. Catherine’s Island. The artifacts need to be consolidated so that they can be transferred to Georgia. They will be organized according to where and in what layer they were found instead of by material. I will be checking the documentation of these objects. Other tasks will include data entry, photography, the storing and handling of artifacts, and possibly photogrammetry related to the 3-D scanning of objects, and various forms of analysis. So far we have been working with materials from the most recent work on the Island. We cleaned several fragments of ceramic as well as shell. We have also sorted through materials found around features and several other sites, this included slowly going through bags of fine material to find hidden pieces of ceramic, fired clay, fish bones, certain lithics, and beads. As you can imagine, this is a long process in order to catch every piece of information, but we managed to finish sorting all of the leftover materials from the excavation and move on to cataloguing, and then sorting and consolidating some of the catalogued materials.
In terms of my goals for the summer, the first is to learn how to perform cursory and historical analysis of artifacts, and more importantly to be able to recognize different kinds of materials more accurately. I’m excited to learn from my fellow interns, who have varying levels of experience in the field and in different areas of North America and the rest of the world as well as my supervisors. On a more general level, my goal is of course to gain experience working in a professional archaeology lab. I have not worked in a lab nor had many experiences in a non-fieldwork setting, and I am eager to be able to increase my confidence of my own knowledge of archaeology and the nature of the sites I will be working with through the North American Archaeology Lab this summer!
Mozelle Shamash Rosenthal, ‘16