While I’ve been visiting the archives a couple of times a week, looking for information I can use for my research project, I’ve also been down in the CAP lab with Blair, putting together a type collection that can be used for future CAP members, in order to help classify artifacts that have been/will be found. Since I haven’t had much experience thus far in archaeological labs, it’s been interesting to learn what exactly a type collection even is, and to get the opportunity to look at all the collections that Campus Archaeology has obtained since it was first started. During my first visit down to the lab, Katy helped me to understand the difference between the types of ceramics we have (earthenware vs. whiteware vs. stoneware, etc), the difference between the types of nails we have, and ways to classify the types of glass we have. To someone who has had experience in the lab, this may all seem like very trivial stuff, but for someone who had never seen a type collection before, or had gotten to classify artifacts before (namely, me) I had to start somewhere, and learning the basics was definitely necessary. I was given a couple of informational sheets to look over, along with some websites, until the next time I could get back in the lab.
As an undergraduate, this work in the lab has really helped me learn some necessary skills that I will continue to use as a graduate student and into my career life. Granted, I’m not necessarily looking to be a historical archaeologist. As of right now, I’m looking into graduate schools that will help me focus on bioarcheaology, specifically in Central America. However, this doesn’t mean that what I’m doing in the CAP lab won’t help me in the future. What a typology is and how it is formed/used is necessary to know for working with artifacts from any time period, not just historical artifacts. Even though bioarcheaology focuses on human skeletons, all archeological fields can be connected in some way or other, and it could definitely be useful to me to someday use what I know about typologies to help with whatever research I happen to be doing. It’s also been nice to get some experience in the lab, just in general. As an archeologist, I will definitely spend much of my future in labs, and learning the dos and don’ts of a lab is obviously important. Not to mention lab experience looks good on graduate school applications, which is definitely something I’m keeping in mind as I get closer to graduation.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s also been a good experience to work with someone else in the lab. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t extremely knowledgeable about type collections, and it’s been nice to work with a graduate student who knows more. Blair has been very enjoyable to work with, and she offers up good suggestions that I otherwise may not have thought of. It’s also been nice to get to know a graduate anthropology student. As a junior, I’m starting to look into graduate schools and what kind of life I will live after I graduate from MSU, and working with not only Blair, but with Katy and some of the other graduate students too, has given me a peek at that.
For an actual summary about what Blair and I have been doing in the lab, take a glance at her blog entry. It’s been a rewarding experience working down there with her, and I have to say, there is really no better way to learn about this great university’s history than actually getting one’s hands on the actual artifacts that tell us so much.