Archaeology: hook ’em while they’re young

As part of my work this semester for Campus Archaeology, I have been scouring the internet to find out how and where other campus groups are exploring their history through archaeology.  The results have been quite interesting.  My immediate assumption when starting on this quest to find other explorations of campus archaeology was that I would be restricted to college and university programs.  While the greater majority of archaeological explorations of campus histories are found at colleges and universities, you can imagine my surprise at finding a program at a high school in New Jersey which will undertake the task of excavations of a historic campus site and teach students about archaeological analysis.

In the town of Burlington, New Jersey, The Doane Academy is slated to begin a project to uncover a portion of their own campus’ history.  According to the Director of Archives at Doane Academy, “Doane Academy…is positioned to become the only high school in the United States to have an active on-campus archaeology program. ”  And I thought my high school was progressive!  The Doane Academy will engage students in learning methods of archaeological excavation, survey, archival research and artifact preservation.  For more details about the project visit http://www.doaneacademy.org/news_detail.php?id=146.

Not to be left out, there are a number of unique and interesting collegiate campus archaeology projects being carried out throughout the country.  At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Meghan Howey is leading students in the excavation of the original train depot which once resided on campus of UNH.  The excavation is part of a course taught at UNH called “The Lost Campus: the Archaeology of UNH.”  It gives students an opportunity to participate in true-to-form archaeological excavations right on the campus of UNH.

What I personally find unique about both of these programs, and others of their kind, is that the opportunity to engage with archaeology is brought down to an “at home” level.  The students at both the Doane Academy and UNH get to learn about the history of their own campus, but more than that, they get a feel for what archaeology entails without having to stray far from the familiar.  For many of us (and I include myself in this group) our first foray into archaeology involved participating in a field school, usually far from home, and disconnected with our everyday lives.  What these programs offer is a means of personally connecting with the archaeology, and sampling what it means to “do archaeology” at a stage when many would-be archaeologists are only learning abstractly through lectures.  Like the Campus Archaeology Program here at MSU, what these programs provide is more than just an archaeological accounting of campus history, but an opportunity to engage with a subject matter at a personal level and in a familiar environment.



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