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Digging In Deep

Student archeologists embrace history through hands-on learning

Before enrolling at Wittenberg University in 2012, Caitlin Lobl was interested in archaeology. Four years and thousands of frequent flyer miles later, Lobl's interest has transformed into a passion - and, most importantly, a promising career.

Lobl is among a growing number of students enrolled in Wittenberg's thriving archaeology program, an interdisciplinary minor directed by archaeologist and historian Darlene Brooks Hedstrom, professor of history. The program presents unique hands-on opportunities for students, from a dig on campus called Nearby Wittenberg (watch video) that started in 2013 (and continues today) to work sites across the globe, including Egypt, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and even an underwater excavation site off the Florida coast.

Lobl's work in Ireland the last two years has already led to a job offer. She can't contain her enthusiasm when discussing her professional prospects, much less the educational process that allowed her to develop the necessary skills and knowledge.

"From an early age, I was fascinated by the mummification process in Egypt, and some of my fondest memories were traveling to Virginia to visit its various colonial sites, which frequently feature public archaeology," said Lobl, who attended nearby Tecumseh High School in New Carlisle, Ohio. "I was involved with the Nearby Archaeology Project at Wittenberg since its creation in 2013. Being a part of the first season of work allowed me to understand how to plot a site and how to surface scrape.

"This first season was especially crucial to me because it allowed me to explore my passion for the field and the process. Not only did it solidify my interest, I was then able to use this prior experience to apply to other field schools."

It would be fair to say that Lobl took advantage of nearly every educational opportunity Wittenberg and the archaeology program afforded her, including digs at historic Monticello in Virginia and another in Trim, Ireland. She is ready to put her training to good use, starting with another European adventure.

"I will be returning to the Black Friary Community Project (in Ireland) as an excavation teacher's assistant after being awarded a full-ride scholarship, only two of which were available," Lobl said. "I will be there for 10 weeks, and then I will be relocating to Dublin to begin my year-long master's program in Experimental Archaeology. It is the first time this program is being offered.

"I do not believe I could have achieved any of this without the foundations the Wittenberg project had set in place for me."

Over the summer, the new experiences continued for Lobl, including instruction of students new to archaeology and the opportunity to work in post-excavation, where she analyzed finds and samples that were previously removed from the field.

"The most exciting part of post-excavation for me has been the flotation exercise," she said. "This is where water is agitated and small phyolith (plant-based material) float to the top and are captured as a sample."

I wanted to make my career in history to be more adventurous, and more hands-on. The new archaeology minor gave me that opportunity.
Caitlin Lobl '16

Making Dreams A Reality

Lobl is a two-time recipient of a scholarship from the Nancy L. Benco Archaeological Research Fund, which was created by archaeologist and George Washington University professor of anthropology Nancy Benco '66. Scholarships from the fund support Wittenberg students majoring or minoring in history as they conduct research, participate in archaeological field schools, or travel to archaeology meetings.

Another 2016 recipient of a Benco Award for Archaeology is Michael Resko '17. He spent his summer months studying at the Lighthouse Archaeology Maritime Program (LAMP) in St. Augustine, Fla., where he learned field techniques of archaeological testing, excavation and documentation of maritime sites, primarily working on an offshore excavation site of an historical shipwreck that dates back to the 18th century.

Like Lobl, Resko had an interest in archaeology before arriving on campus. He heads into his senior year with big plans for like after college.

"My interest in archaeology began with my passion for studying the history of colonial piracy in the 17th and 18th century," said Resko, a certified diver. "However, I couldn't see myself simply reading books and using only textual sources to work with or argue against other historians.

"I wanted to make my career in history to be more adventurous, and more hands-on. The new archaeology minor gave me that opportunity."

Brooks Hedstrom is following Resko's progress closely, as she does with all of the students enrolled in the archaeology program. She hopes to visit Lobl in Ireland in the future, extending a mentoring relationship that included a well-received presentation at the Midwest Archaeological Conference in Milwaukee, Wisc., in November 2015.

Resko's work off the coast of the Sunshine State was "not only fun, but also very informative," he said.

"It is difficult to describe the feeling when I'm finding historical artifacts that have been right under everyone's nose for more than 200 years. I learned so much from LAMP, I would recommend it to anyone interested in underwater archaeology."

Integrating Archaeology Into Liberal Arts

For Katie Shanor '17, Wittenberg's archaeology program has also built upon educational pursuits and interests cultivated in high school. She arrived on campus at the perfect time, signing up for a new minor that embodies the liberal arts and dovetails perfectly with her primary field of study.

"The program offered at Wittenberg is nothing short of fantastic because the program was designed to cater to the different students interested in the program," Shanor said. "As a biology major, I am able to obtain a minor in archaeology with a mix of biology classes and history classes. From the introductory archaeology class to vertebrate zoology, I have had the opportunity to focus on the aspects of archaeology I want to.

"Each class that I have taken to fulfill the requirements of the minor have given me more than just the essentials to work in the field as an archaeologist but a deeper understanding of what it means to be an archaeologist and the tools to be an educated archaeologist in any field."

Shanor also received a grant from Benco Fund in 2016 and spent part of her summer in tiny Kampsville, Ill., home to just 328 residents but also the Center for American Archaeology (CAA), where renowned Arizona State University professor Jane Buikstra is conducting research that builds upon her groundbreaking work in the developing field of bioarchaeology. Shanor is studying human skeletal remains dating back to prehistoric Native Americans that have been unearthed in Kampsville.

"What makes the Wittenberg archaeology program even more special is the endless opportunities we have to gain real experience," Shanor said. "In addition to gaining the skills needed to tell the gender and age of an individual or bones, I will be doing an independent research project. From the lecture and lab experience, I will be able to build a biological profile of skeletal remains, as well as gain a better understanding of bioarchaeology and human osteology."

Shanor hopes to attend graduate school and eventually work as a wildlife biologist. She describes professional opportunities as "endless," thanks in part to her studies in both biology and archaeology at Wittenberg.

Heather Toops, who studied at Wittenberg through the university's School of Community Education before graduating in May 2016, visited multiple countries across Europe during her summer to remember. She unearthed the walls of ancient buildings, studied human remains in tombs, and analyzed pottery fragments, and she traveled across Spain, France and Italy, thanks in part to a grant from the Benco Fund.

"I currently work as a correction officer, but I would love to eventually work for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in forensic archaeology," Toops said. "With the experience I gained over the summer on how to sex and age the skeletal remains, I feel I would be able to use this at BCI. I also hope to go to area high schools and give them presentations about my experience to help promote archaeology."

To learn more about Wittenberg's archeology program, visit www.wittenberg.edu.

Ryan Maurer
Ryan Maurer
Senior Writer and Web Communications Specialist

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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