As you probably already know, I am Michelle, the Spring SCA Intern for SEAC and these blog posts refer to my experiences interning at SEAC this season. This particular post relate my time working in the NAGPRA and Applied Sciences division.
NAGPRA is an acronym for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The NAGPRA division within SEAC seeks to meet the demands of the Act by identifying NAGPRA-applicable items within SEAC’s collection and region and ensuring their proper repatriation. These items can include human remains, funerary objects, scared objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. Following identification, the division must determine the correct lineage or cultural association with Native American tribes through research, notices, and consultation which can be a stressful process. During my week with NAGPRA, I spent the first few days becoming familiar with the processes that are involved when conducting repatriations of items and the formal documentation of human remains that assist in establishing a Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI), the biological sex, and age of the individual(s) present. In addition to testing my understanding of these procedures through mock write-ups based on situation prompts, I had opportunities to shadow the osteologists as they analyzed a particularly challenging burial in order to determine the accurate MNI present.
My second week in the division I moved over to Applied Sciences which handles the impact of climate change on archaeological sites. While I am in no means a climate change “nay-sayer,” I hadn’t really considered the impact of climate change on archaeological sites. Erosion of coastal archaeological sites is a prime example of the devastating effects of rising sea levels in addition to various other natural and human activities that have severely threatened or affected these valuable cultural resources. While in Applied Sciences, I spent my time researching case studies and scientific publications on the topic of climate change and archaeological resources. I did, however, have a chance to assist in sorting material from a particular project in the Everglades. An interesting fact about the material was that it had been collected in sample units in these peat-like areas, so the preservation of the artifacts is completely unreal!