By Taylor Bowden
When I initially chose anthropology as my major, archaeology wasn’t anywhere on my radar. Forensic anthropology was what I wanted to do, and what I still want to do; however I have a whole new appreciation for archaeologists and all that they do. I heard about this field school when Dr. Ahlman came to speak to my Intro to Archaeology class and his passion for his work piqued my interest. I had been looking for a way to study abroad and still gain the experience that many people in our field rarely just happen upon and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. I signed up immediately and found myself in June on a plane to St. Kitts. Stepping out of the plane with the 4 strangers who were my classmates, I had no idea what would be in store for us.
Day 1 we hiked out to the site, and immediately learned how to lay down units and started digging. I had not prepared myself for the obscene amount of tarantulas we would find in the coming days, some big and some small, altogether still unnerving. I also didn’t realize before coming on this field school how hard the work would actually be. I knew we would be digging, but I didn’t factor in the heat, need for water, or the amount of time we would spend digging.
The first couple weeks of digging were smooth sailing but as my classmates mentioned, on the 15th, some of our field equipment was stolen from our site. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so defeated, but I couldn’t be more proud of my group and how we recovered from that. No one complained or asked to go home, we just found some burned buckets near our site and continued working. Our defiance in the face of having all our stuff stolen set the tone for the rest of the field school. We had all experienced what we thought was the worst and if we were able to come back from that, we could deal with any obstacles that could come our way.
The last week of our field school was spent at a prehistoric site, where some of the Amerindians of St. Kitts are thought to have lived. We completed 20 shovel tests in our 2 days of work on the site; one of the days we got rained out. On the second day we also learned how to use Trimble GPS devices, extremely helpful knowledge for anyone who wants to pursue archaeology in the future.
This work is no joke, but at the end of the day I leave feeling that I’ve accomplished something. Sometimes when I find it tough to put into perspective how important the work we’re doing is, Dr. Ahlman explains how important all the things we find are to the history of the people who had no voice and all the digging and hard work we’ve done becomes worth it once again.
In the time I’ve spent digging with Dr. Ahlman, Caitlin (our TA), and this amazing group of girls, I’ve realized that I couldn’t have asked for better people to be here with. In our time here we’ve become a small family while we’ve been away from our own families and friends. These are some of the best people I’ve had the privilege of meeting at Texas State. This experience as a whole has easily been the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of. Make no mistake, this experience has also been one of the hardest, most testing things I’ve ever done, but I feel that I have come out the other side of this field school a better person. I’ve gained knowledge about myself and archaeology and it’s made me realize that I may have an interest in bioarchaeology. I will carry this place, these people, and this experience with me for the rest of my life and I couldn’t be more thankful. It’s true, you really don’t know until you go.
Taylor Bowden is a Senior majoring in Anthropology at Texas State University