SciGirls Summer Camp 2016

Some of Tallahassee’s newest female scientists may have found their calling last Friday. For the fourth year in a row, National Park Service scigirls logoarcheologists from the Southeast Archeological Center were honored to spend a day with the SciGirls summer camp  a two-week program for girls entering 6-9th grade designed to inspire middle and high school girls to pursue careers in science.

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SEAC archeologists Satin Bowman, Mercedes Harrold, Hillary Conley, and Kathryn Miyar, and Megan Merrick of FSU getting the SciGirls psyched up for a day of archeology

mag lab logoThe camp is held in Tallahassee, Florida around the corner from SEAC in Innovation Park at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (the Mag Lab) and co-hosted by WFSU. SEAC archeologists Alexandra Parsons, Kathryn Miyar, Satin Bowman, Hillary Conley,
WFSU-logoand Mercedes Harrold, and Florida State University anthropology graduate student Megan Merrick taught the SciGirls about archeology and the importance of preserving archeological sites.

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Mapping an artifact scatter with a grid over the mock site. Photo credit: SciGirls

A major theme for this year’s archeology day at SciGirls Summer Camp  was unauthorized excavation of archeological sites – looting.

The girls started the day off with a lecture about archeology and how archeological research is conducted. Then they headed outside to document a mock archeological site hypothetically damaged by looters. They  mapped and collected artifacts, and learned to take measurements using the metric system.

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The girls spent the next few hours in the lab analyzing faux artifacts and casts of human skeletal remains. Part of the focus was to help them develop and understanding of how removing artifacts from their context in the earth makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to answer  certain questions about the past.

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Exploring skeletal differences in men and women

The human remains had been recovered from the back of the looters’ truck as part of the hypothetical looting situation that framed the lab. The SciGirls learned how to calculate the Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI)  in a skeletal assemblage and used a complete, articulated skeleton as a comparative tool for identifying different bones.

During the lab exercises, the girls learned how archeologists use ceramic typologies to determine date ranges for sites, how the timing of tooth eruptions can be used to determine the age of subadult skeletal remains, and how features of adult skeletons can be used to determine whether the remains belong to a male or female.  The SciGirls also took a look at several reproduction and real artifacts and learned what kinds of research can be done on these items and what methods are available to archeologists. Lastly, the girls wrote a report documenting the site and the artifacts and considered how illegally removing artifacts from a site impairs our ability to learn about the past.

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Learning about tooth eruption rates in children. Photo credit: SciGirls

Unauthorized excavation and looting are serious problems in the practice of archeology. While federal and state governments have been intensifying their enforcement of laws protecting archeological sites and punishing perpetrators, one of the best ways to combat these kinds of violations is through education of the up-and-coming generation. The SciGirls camp was an excellent opportunity to reach out to the future leaders of tomorrow to instill a deeper respect for our cultural heritage and the recognition of the irreversible damage caused by looting.

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This year the SciGirls worked really well as a team. We were especially impressed with their questions about archeological and osteological methods! We also lucked out and had no rain. The girls got a little dirty, but stayed dry. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Archeology Day at SciGirls summer camp!

For more on what SciGirls Summer Camp is all about, Check out the SciGirls Blog!

Registration for SciGirls 2017 opens in JanuaryCheck out the Mag Lab’s Page for more information.

Check out Trowel Blazers to learn more about women archeologists who’ve made impacts in the field!

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