An Archaeological Work Week!

Today marks the last day of my first work week at field school in Peru! I can't believe it's actually been a full work week. And when I say "full," I mean FULL. Bioarchaeologists do not waste any time whatsoever!! I guess I should further explain my situation here, huh?

A field school is a credit-awarded program for students interested in anthropology and/or archaeology, essentially. There's about 16 students here altogether--I'm the only student from Wagner! Many of the others are from UNC, where the supervisor of the program is a professor. We are all living in a hospijade, which is like a big house where the owners live as well; they make us breakfast and dinner and takes care of the house. They are so incredibly sweet--I am so grateful for not only their huge helpCusco around the house and the delicious food, but they're really friendly and always talking with us! They also have dogs, Cusco and Palusa. Palusa is newly a mommy and her puppies are so small and absolutely adorable. Cusco is her pup too, from her previous litter. He's a cuddler.

There are currently three (including myself) of us on the bioarchaeology team out of all of the students in the field school here. Everyone else is working in the field, doing archaeology work such as mapping and surveying. The bioarch team, on the other hand, are working with the already uncovered findings...specifically? Humans remains!! Prof. Gagnon is exactly into that kind of thing, so she's leading our team. I'm the youngest one on the team; another girl is working on her Master's thesis. It's definitely intimidating, but even in one week I feel like I've learned so much and can hold my own!

We've been working with human remains found in burials from Cero Oreja, a mountain of the Andes mountain range. There is Boxesa wide range of periods present in this archaeological site, so there's a vast amount of history! A lot of the burials are highly fragmented, especially because the burials weren't exactly held at the most safe place. The shelves were fragile and in fact, the ceiling (made of wood) had collapsed, crushing a lot of the boxes that held the remains uncovered. There were tons of boxes..each box had anywhere from three to ten burials in it!!

We were working to identify, organize, and analyze these sets of remains and let me tell you: it's not easy!! But while being one of the most Bones 1challenging puzzles I've set my mind to, identifying these remains is definitely the most rewarding. We're finding tons of intriguing instances of bone disease, effects of disease, even effects of abuse. It's sometimes an emotional trip, especially when we're dealing with children's remains. The bones of children are also so incredibly small--it's mind-blowing to watch Prof. Gagnon of Callie, the Master's student, identify these bones or fragments of bones with apparent ease. Kendra, the other undergraduate student on the bioarch team, were so proud of ourselves when we identified, organized, and helped analyze this skeleton! These remains were from the second day of full work, on Tuesday. We were lucky to have them in bigger pieces, but it was really awesome to figure it out! Puzzles will never be the same.

SkullOn a nerdy note, we analyzed a full skeleton today! It had all of the bones present (which is hugely uncommon) and the bones were so well-preserved! We were able to look into the full skull, which even had most of its teeth! It was definitely a bone-nerd moment; all four of us geeked out for a moment. And it's definitely the coolest moment, when you, two strangers, and your professor all geek-out over some bones. This whole experience is really one of the best decisions I've ever made. I wouldn't trade this for the world.

Corrine’s Spanish Lingo of the Day:

  • Huesos – bones
  • Hasta proxima semana – literally means, "until next week," or used colloquially as "see you next week!"
Corrine Matlak

Author: Corrine Matlak

Corrine is a 4th year student at Wagner studying Arts Administration, Film & Media, and Anthropology, who is pursuing a career in nonfiction and documentary filmmaking. She is originally from the East End of Long Island, but swears she doesn’t have an accent. Along with being the 'token nerd' in many social situations, she’s also an amateur yogi, conditional rapper, terrible snowboarder, and a Gryffindor.

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