During the summer of 2015, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Ohio State University/Universitá de Pisa in Medieval Archaeology and Bioarchaeology at Badia Pozzeveri, Italy. Under the direction of Dr. Clark Larsen and Dr. Giuseppe Vercellotti from OSU and Dr. Gino Fornaciari from the Universitá de Pisa, we were able to continue and expand previous excavations conducted at the site. This included exposing human burials dated to the middle ages, the renaissance and modern times.
Since this was my first time participating in an archaeological field school, I was nervous that I would be at a disadvantage due to my lack of experience; however, I was put at ease when I learned that this was the first experience for good number of undergradute students as well. Not only did we work on the four areas in our site, but everyone in the field school participated in three different types of labs; osteology lab, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) lab, and material cultures lab.
Additionally, throughout the field school we also had numerous lectures by guest presenters. The first was given by Dr. Antonio Fornaciari and encapsulated the basic concepts of stratigraphy and the stratigraphy composition of an archaeological site during the medieval age. Later that week we heard from Dr. Sharon DeWitte on the Bioarchaeology of the Black Plague. She began the lecture by explaining her current research in East Smithfield, London and how cemeteries in East Smithfield provide an excellent example of a purposeful cemetery built just for Black Death victims. Then she continued by exploring the ongoing research on Pre and Post Black Death trends. This included going into the developing reasons as to why the Black Death was able to be so deadly in such a small amount of time and how contrary to popular thought, the Black Death killed discriminately by targeting older adults and frail people of all ages. Another interesting lecture was from a group of Italian anthropologists who run a 3D printing company. They explained the functionality of using 3D scanning and printers and the more in depth details that they are able to produce compared to a normal photo. The final couple lectures were by the directors, Dr. Larsen and Dr. Fornaciari, and expanded on the discovery and current research surrounding Çatalhöyük, the agricultural impact on human evolution, and the recent paleopathology work involved with the ‘Medici Project.’ The ‘Medici Project’ is a paleopathological project carried out by a team of experts, to study 49 tombs of some of the Medici family members (16th-18th centuries). This project uses a wide range of disciplines such as funerary archeology, paleonutrition, parasitology, immuno-histochemistry, molecular biology, and identification of ancient pathogens.
Overall, this has made my love for learning about the past to grow and I now have a greater respect for professional archaeologists, as well as a better understanding of their methodologies. I plan on applying for graduate school this fall and will be graduating from CofC in the spring of 2016. I will always be grateful for this opportunity, especially since I am unsure if I will ever get another experience similar to this one again. Lastly, I want to thank the Jon Morter Memorial Scholarship for supporting my work this summer and its continuing support that allows future archaeologists to be enriched by these types of experiences.