National Park Service archeologists from the Southeast Archeological Center – Alexandra Parsons, Kathryn Miyar, Satin Bowman, Megan Suzann Reed, Julia Aleszczyk, Hillary Conley, and Shabria Williamston – recently spent the day at the SciGirls summer camp at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) and co-hosted by WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida. SciGirls is a two-week summer camp for girls entering 6-9th grade. The camp is designed to inspire middle and high school girls to pursue careers in science. For the last three years, SEAC has spent a day at the camp teaching the girls about archeology.
To get the day started, we gave a brief lecture about the basics of archeology, the process of doing archeological research, and the types of scientific techniques we use to study the past. We set up a scenario that a [fake] archeological site at the MagLab had been looted. In the scenario, two people were apprehended at the site; artifacts and human remains were found in their vehicle. The girls headed outside to document the mock archeological site. They recorded evidence of illegal digging, used a mathematical formula to calculate the volume of excavated dirt, photographed evidence, and collected artifacts on the surface of the “site.” Everyone then went to the laboratory, where the girls visited four workstations.
At Station 1, SciGirls conducted preliminary analyses on the artifacts: ceramics, stone tools, and faunal remains. Using a ceramic type collection, they identified the ceramics and time periods of site occupation.
At Station 2, the girls used tooth eruption patterns to identify the ages of subadult human remains (all the human remains are reproductions of real skeletons). They also examined the confiscated artifacts to determine where they came from and when they were made.
At Station 3, the girls learned about the human skeleton. They learned some of the differences in the skull and pelvis of males and females and learned how to determine the minimum number of individuals present (MNI).
At Station 4, the girls looked at some real artifacts, learned about different types of archeological research, and discussed how looting effects what we can learn about a specific archeological site and the past in general.
The girls were excellent scientists and asked really great questions about methods, research, and how we know what we know about the past. One girl even said she might like to be an archeologist. We are grateful to the MagLab for encouraging girls to participate in science and for allowing us to work with a great group of girls every year.
Girls in the Tallahassee area who are interested in participating in the SciGirls Summer Camp should visit:
Check out Shabria Williamston’s blog post on her experience as a SEAC summer intern!