My Archaeological Field School Experience

by Kathleen Jenkins

Kathleen and her dig partners catching up on field notes. Each student is responsible for maintaining a field notebook.

Kathleen and her dig partners catching up on field notes. Each student is responsible for maintaining a field notebook.

Before I arrived in St. Kitts for my archaeological field school I had no idea what to expect.  Were we going to unearth a lost civilization? Was Dr. Ahlman going to take us on a secret journey to discover the lost ark? Regardless of whether or not we were going to partake in any of those activities, I was excited to experience anything having to do with archaeology. Even though I had participated in a wonderful internship at CAS, I knew that before I could fully appreciate the field of archaeology I needed to get some hands-on experience out in the field. So when I heard about this field school in one of my classes, I immediately signed up and knew that St. Kitts was where I needed to be.

Kathleens’ group found this mid-seventeenth century French coin.

Kathleens’ group found this mid-seventeenth century French coin.

Excavating slave living quarters in St. Kitts with my peers has been a humbling and valuable learning experience. Not only has it challenged my mental capabilities, but has tested my physical stamina as well. Even though I have dirt-clogged nostrils and aching muscles from digging, learning more about these past people and finding objects that were used in their daily lives gives us an appreciation of their unwritten history. Artifacts such as coins, buttons, pieces of ceramic, metal fragments, and farming equipment have been some of the many lucky finds that we have had at St. Kitts.

Everyone taking a short break after lunch.

Everyone taking a short break after lunch.

When I told people that I was going to participate in archaeological excavations in St. Kitts, they either did not know where St. Kitts was located or assumed that we were going to excavate dinosaur bones and lost civilizations.  Although these assumptions are true to a certain extent, coming across extinct civilizations or discovering an artifact lost in time is a rare occurrence in itself. Studying artifacts such as broken pottery or farming equipment is not exactly the type of research that is commonly associated with archaeologists. In many cases, people outside of archaeology have preconceived ideas of how archaeology functions within our current society.  Whether it is looking for the lost ark or going on wild adventures like Indiana Jones, archaeology is widely thought of as being an extremely exclusive field of study, predominantly focusing on larger more restricted projects. However, by participating at CAS and the field school at St. Kitts, I have discovered that archaeology is not entirely exclusive or only available to specific types of people.  It is widely available to those people who seek to tell the story of the past.  Whether it is excavating a lost civilization or unearthing slave living quarters in St. Kitts, I have learned that archaeology is both a voice and aid for the people of the past and for the people of the present.

Kathleen Jenkins is a Junior studying Anthropology at Texas State University. This past academic year she interned with CAS cataloging the McEvoy Collection of Precolumbian Mexican ceramics.