Who we are

The Lost Towns Project is a team of professional archaeologists and historians, working closely with the government of Anne Arundel County, Maryland to discover and explore the County's rich heritage. The team is committed to sharing the discovery process of this incredible heritage with the public through hands-on experiences, publications, lectures, and exhibits. In this blog, we will share some of our exciting discoveries, updates, and events. Check out our website at www.losttownsproject.org for much more, or to learn how to become a volunteer or intern! No experience is required to assist us in field investigations, laboratory studies, archival research, and interpretive programs. Join us to rediscover the History in your own backyards!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Geologist Amongst Archaeologists

Today's blog was written by Victor Perez, a recent Ohio State University grad who came to us seeking field and lab work experience. Victor was not an Anthropology major in school (most of our interns are social science majors), but rather he focused on geology and paleontology. He chose to undertake a 120 hour Archaeology internship with us and we developed a schedule where he would spent half his time in the field and half in the lab. As you can read below, he got a lot of the experience and we got a lithics type collection that will be of great use when we catalog artifacts from prehistoric sites like Pig Point. I'm so pleased he took the time to blog about his unique experience!  -Stephanie    
Victor assembled a lithics type collection in the lab

I recently completed an internship with the Lost Towns Project, however my background made my experience a little different than most others that participate in this internship program. Last spring I graduated from Ohio State University with an honors degree in Geological Sciences with a Mathematics minor. Having incurred difficulty in finding a job I set out to broaden my range of experience. This effort drove me to pursue the Lost Towns Project internship. Although my degree is in Earth Sciences, my particular interests are focused around paleontology; however I have always found myself interested in archaeology as well. In fact, I knew of the Lost Towns Project through volunteering while I was in high school.

At the very start of the internship every potential intern is told one very important thing: you will get out of this internship what you put in. This concept resonated in my mind and still does. This concept is true of anything you do; yet it seems to be often forgotten. With this motto ingrained in my mind I set out to make this internship as relevant as possible to my particular interests and with the help of the LTP staff, I did just that.

Despite the obvious differences between the anthropogenic-based field, archaeology, and the geologic oriented field, paleontology, there are numerous overlapping similarities. Such as, the excavation process or the incomplete record that we are faced to interpret. Focusing on these similarities made it easy to tailor my experience towards my own benefit. In the same manner that you begin a research project I began to ask: What do I want to gain from this? How can I implement my experience and apply it to this internship? And it didn’t take long to release that I was not the only one asking these questions. After a few weeks of working as an intern, Stephanie asked me if I would be interested in putting together a lithics type collection as a reference for other volunteers. This was an excellent way to develop my rock and mineral identification, while explaining some of the basic geologic principles that are involved in identification.

Now you may ask yourself, if you are interested in paleontology why is it important to have a strong background in lithic identification? The answer is two-fold. First of all, fossils are lithified remnants of past life and understanding how they are preserved can tell you a great deal about the organism and the environment in which it resided. Second, interpreting a geologic setting is largely based on what type of sediment and formations are present. For example, a conglomerate dominated unit is often indicative of running water, i.e. a river system. Similarly, sandy mounds may imply eolian (wind-driven) dunes. Many other factors may be used to support these ideas, but the most fundamental means of recognizing these geologic settings is oriented around rock and mineral identification.

Another extremely relevant experience gained from this internship was acquired through artifact preservation, specifically with human bones. These bones have yet to undergo the fossilization process and for that reason are far more susceptible to being damaged. Gaining experience in both mending and Rhoplexing these human remains was like an extra challenging version of maintaining fossilized material. 

Victor and volunteer, Cathy, hard at work at Pig Point

My true passion is in the field. Like most others I find it most rewarding to be able to uncover items thought to be lost through time, whether it’s cultural artifacts or fossilized remains. The detail-oriented approach to excavation put into affect by the Lost Towns Project gave me a great respect for their dedication to preserving history. To the untrained eye it may appear to be overkill, but there is a vast importance in provenance and artifact distribution. I have already begun to implement this in my work as a paleontologist. Having just returned from a paleontology dig in Texas I can say without a doubt that this internship has influenced my approach to excavation, specifically through mapping. I utilized the methods I acquired through profile mapping to do a cross-section mapping of the dig site in Texas. This map will likely be involved in a paper I will be working on shortly.

The immediate influence that this internship has had me is astounding and I’m certain that it will continue to influence me as I continue on in my career. I had a great time working with this amazing group of archaeologists, interns, and volunteers. And I will most definitely find my way back to the site to aid in future excavations as a volunteer.

With great appreciation,

Victor Perez

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