Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My First Field School

Hi everyone! My name is Christina Errico, and I am a rising senior at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania earning my B. A. in archaeology.  You may have already seen my picture on the blog digging or holding up the Foss’ Liquid Fruit Flavor Bottle.  I grew up going on field trips and visits to Strawbery Banke, and when I realized they had an archaeological field school, I knew it was the right place for me to fulfill my degree requirement. 

As a first-time field school student, I really didn't know what to expect.  I was book smart about archaeology, but I had never really taken my knowledge to the field.  The most I can claim to have done before Strawbery Banke is a little mapping in Dickinson’s lab and a bit of pedestrian survey at an old CCC/POW camp in Pennsylvania called Camp Michaux as part of our mandatory Archaeological Methods and Theory class.  Completing a field school is one of the requirements to earn a degree in archaeology and this was my last summer to fulfill it.  Naturally, I was a little nervous about doing it right and making it count.

My first day was pretty interesting, and I soon realized there were only myself and one other field school student who was a senior in high school.  I wondered how we would dig out an entire mikveh with just four of us, but then a hoard of the archaeology department’s fabulous volunteers rolled in ready for action.  We got a tour of the grounds by Alix from an archaeological standpoint and then again by Strawbery Banke’s curator, Elizabeth, to talk about historical architecture.  We took an extra-long lunch and then the digging began.  To be fair, we didn't actually get that much digging done the first day, as we had to sort out the situation of the strawberry patch that had conveniently been planted directly atop our site.  The irony…

I went home feeling less nervous than I had the night before my first day (and a lot more tired), but I still felt like I didn't really know what I was doing.  I didn't want to screw up my first field school by making a wall cave in or breaking one of the most important artifacts or anything unthinkable like that. 

My fears quickly disappeared by the end of day 2 as I realized how welcoming, helpful, and fun everyone at Strawbery Banke is, especially Alix, Nadia, and my fellow field school student, Alex (or Alex the Younger, as we like to distinguish her as).  There was never a dull moment when the volunteers were there, and I can honestly say that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences.  Archaeology in and of itself is a gratifying field, and I think this field school really proved that for me. 

Besides the countless hours of physical labor in the summer heat and hauling dog-sized boulders and small mountains of rocks out of units, my favorite part of this experience was that that I got to interact with the public and explain to them what we were doing.  I also felt prepared to do so even though I had only been there a few days, which is a great feeling.  I think it’s really important to educate the public about what archaeology is and why we are destroying a site just to gain knowledge. I feel like I helped discover something that will help shape our knowledge about the Jewish community in Portsmouth and Jewish women’s lives in particular that we could not have gotten by simply reading a textbook.  And even if you can just read about something, it’s a lot more fun and enlightening to go out there and find it for yourself.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post Chrissy! It was interesting to read from your perspective and I'm so glad you enjoyed the experience. I hope you continue to visit the archaeology lab when you're in Portsmouth.