Well…Now What?

With the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us are scrambling for internships and jobs for the summer, many of which have already been cancelled.  The lack of internships can put a damper on our development both professionally and financially.  Unfortunately for many of us up-and-coming archaeologists, most of the internships we applied for are not considered essential.  However, there are some things we can do to combat this crisis.

Many archaeological jobs, mostly those centered around NEPA and Section 106 requirements, are essential and thus still looking for workers.  Section 106 approval is required for any federal government related projects such as road construction.  Alternatively,

Students from a local Community College joined SPA for an excavation

you could volunteer.  I was informed by an interviewer that volunteering during times when jobs are not available looks very good on resumes because it shows your commitment to the field and improving your skills. One such organization that I am very fond of is the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA).  This is a Pennsylvania specific organization with chapters located in various parts of the state.  IUP is located within the domain of the Westmoreland Chapter (#23).  I have been a longtime member of the John Shrader Chapter (#21) location around the Berks and Chester County area of Pennsylvania.

Got to bring my cleaning home with me

The society is made up of predominantly advocational archaeologists.  This does not mean that the group is a bunch of pothunters.  To the contrary, these amateur archaeologists are very knowledgeable, traveled, educated, and experienced in the field of archaeology.  They are also more than willing to teach and learn.  I began volunteering with then when I was 14 years old and they fostered my passion for archaeology and likely led to my interest in public archaeology.  I learned quite a lot from those excavations and was able to add experience to my resume before entering college.

Regardless of if you can volunteer with SPA or any other archaeological organization, volunteering in general is a fulfilling way to spend one’s time.  Not only can you gain experiences, training, and networks, you can also make a difference in your community or the group.  There are countless opportunities to volunteer and at least one should fit your area of interest.  Some of the best connections I have made have come from volunteering.  Those connections are often the strongest and most useful because they know you are committed for more than just the monetary value of the experience.  In fact, one of the connections I made from SPA introduced me to the professor managing the collection I will be working with for my thesis.  Just shows you that important connections can be made anywhere.

So good luck this summer and remember to cast a wide net and see what you can catch.

For more about SPA go to there website: https://www.pennsylvaniaarchaeology.com/index.htm

Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Pandemic Archaeology

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a virus from the coronavirus genus.  These organisms were first characterized in 1965 when two scientists were studying cultures from adults with colds.  The viruses are medium sized cells ranging from 80-150 nm and have club-like projections scattered across their surface.  The name, coronavirus comes from these projections which give the cell a crown-like appearance.  Human coronaviruses are a respiratory illness that is responsible for 35% of viral respiratory pandemics, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Archaeologists, specifically paleopathologists and paleomicrobiologists, have been studying pandemics and disease for ages.  There is so much knowledge that can be gained from studying such events.  We can study how different cultures react to such widespread illnesses, how burial practices change, the types of illnesses and their evolution, the demographics that are most impacted, and general societal changes the occur during and after pandemic events.  Just as studying past climactic changes can shed light on current events, so too can past pandemics.  Studying the evolutional and spread of ancient diseases might allow for predictions to be made about future pandemics and the types of environments that foster pandemics.  As well, this pandemic will be very interesting for future archaeologists to study, especially in examining the social implications of such a fast spreading, world-wide disease.

Remember to wash your hands and practice good social distancing.

One of the ways archaeologists study pandemics and illness is in examining the ancient DNA (aDNA) of ancient microorganisms.  The major issue impacting this research is the preservation of aDNA samples.  While a great resource for study, DNA is highly susceptible to degradation from internal enzymes and external factors.  Paleomicrobiologists tend to find DNA preserved in extreme climates that induce rapid freezing or dehydration, amber, halite (salt rocks) bones and teeth, preserved internal organs, and coprolites.  The oldest virus found was a 30,000-year-old Pithovirus siberican found in permafrost.  Interestingly, this virus still possessed its infectivity.  Other microorganism DNA has been found in Egyptian mummies, the organs of Otzi the Iceman, and dental pulp.  Future paleomicrobiologists might study the DNA of COVID-19 along with examining the many social impacts of the pandemic in our global cultural.

 

Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram