Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Digging Up the Past ; Students Working in USI's Archaeology Field School Uncover Buried Treasure in New Harmony during a Five-Week Course

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Digging Up the Past ; Students Working in USI's Archaeology Field School Uncover Buried Treasure in New Harmony during a Five-Week Course

Article excerpt

Rhonda Kraft is a psychology major, not anthropology major. Signing up for a five-week archaeological dig was just a way to satisfy her inner Indiana Jones. She never thought it could help her in her chosen field. "I've always wanted to go on a excavation," Kraft said. "At my age I'm working off two lists, my bucket list and what I have to get done for school. This was a once in lifetime opportunity... but it was absolutely more than I ever expected."

The Archaeology Field School is a class at USI for students to learn about excavation, make maps and identify artifacts, said Mike Strezewski, an assistant professor of anthropology. "It's not an ordinary class... it's hands on work."

For five weeks, students get down and dirty, rolling up their sleeves and digging underground.

For this particular session, students spent five weeks in New Harmony excavating a redware pottery kiln dating back to the Harmonist period, circa 1820.

In 1959 the historic Lenz House was moved right over the kiln site, obscuring it from view. It sounds simple, but some, like Kraft, found it profoundly life-changing.

Excavation is "not much different then what you'd do with a psych client," Kraft said. "When you have a person with psychological issues you have to uncover it layer by layer. Now, I won't be so anxious to get to the issue. A person is made of layers just like the ground... let's look at the surface, then see what's under that layer. Working through some layers takes longer than others. This experience has given me a tool that I never would have imagined having."

Whitley Draper is another student who feels profoundly touched by the experience. Draper is planning to major in anthropology as soon as USI offers it, but working in the field gave her more perspective.

"I knew it would be hard work and full of surprises, but I didn't realized I would love it this much," Draper said. "All of us are first timers," she said.

"I am surprised that I can do manual labor as well as I can. I was worried I wouldn't be able to use a shovel."

Draper said that although the work can be "tedious" she sees why it's important to do everything the right way.

"It's a methodical procedure. Exactly as Dr. Mike (Strezewski) said it would be. I didn't realized how precise everything had to be, and the importance of recording everything you do. Now it drives me crazy when I hear about people going out and digging on their own."

The experience has even surprised Strezewski, a seasoned pro.

"I expected it to be relatively straightforward. …

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