Working with the Public at the Gault Site

Guest post by Clark Wernecke

Members of the Texas Archaeological Society during a 2000 field school at the Gault Site.

Members of the Texas Archaeological Society during a 2000 field school at the Gault Site.

As an archaeologist one of my primary duties is to uncover information regarding human behavior in the past and to pass on usable information to my colleagues and the general public. If I excavate the rest of my life and fail to do this then I have wasted my life – it’s that simple. Archaeology is not about filling in museum cases or rewriting history texts, it is about expanding our knowledge of how humans behaved in the past to improve our understanding of behavior in the present and predict it in the future.

I have been particularly lucky in my career to have worked on many different types of archaeology throughout the world and, on occasion, I have worked with archaeologists who viewed the public as a distraction at best and nuisance at worst. A few years ago I was at a seminar where a panel of archaeologists discussed one national volunteer program as a bunch of “old, retired folks” who were nice enough but took up their time. I also had worked with this group and, when asked my opinion, I noted that those “old folks” were retired engineers, architects, doctors, surveyors and even anthropologists and they have the time to spend volunteering on your projects!

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The Value of Archaeology to Forensic Anthropological Casework

Guest post by Michelle Hamilton

Forensic anthropologists conducting a surface search for scattered remains

Forensic anthropologists conducting a surface search for scattered remains

Forensic anthropologists work with law enforcement agencies and medical examiners in cases involving decomposing, skeletonized, or otherwise unidentifiable human remains. Their expertise is based upon a rigorous understanding of the human skeleton, and the ability to discern biological markers on the bones that may indicate sex, age, stature, health, and other features of a once-living individual.

The forensic anthropologist may be asked to assist with establishing the positive identification of a deceased individual, or they might be called upon to examine trauma in order to help understand the cause and/or manner of death. They are often asked to determine whether a discovered skeleton is modern, or if it represents the remains of an individual that died in historic or even archaeological times. These kinds of analytical investigations are usually morgue or laboratory-based, and are conducted on remains that have been brought in from the original discovery location. Continue reading