ANTH3100Y: Ontario Archaeological Field School
Dr. Helen Haines/Dr. Jennifer Newton
Achieving more than a fieldwork course requirement, students at Trent Durham are uncovering historic intrigue and scientific process—right here on campus, as part of Ontario Archaeological Field School.
“Honestly, I’m just so excited,” exclaims Stephanie Altman, a fourth-year Archaeology student. “I feel like we’re real archaeologists now.”
The thrill of discovery
The Ontario Archaeological Field School course focuses on identifying historic or prehistoric remains. The dig site on Trent’s Durham campus located at the center of the City of Oshawa features a barn that was part of a 19th-century homestead.
“It's pretty fun finding artifacts,” states fourth-year Forensics and Anthropology student, Elizabeth Armstrong. “When you find them, everyone gets excited.”
Painting a picture of the property’s history, students have found items including ceramics, horseshoes, a pipestem and even animal bones.
“It is a great opportunity to take their knowledge from class, learning about the methods and everything behind it, to then apply those skills in person, and doing all the different stages of archaeology,” explains Dr. Jennifer Newton, assistant professor of Anthropology, who is overseeing the summer field course.
Professional skills of scientific and historic proportions
“Taking your theory that you’ve learned in class and putting it into practice, strengthens those core field techniques,” says Olivia Molica Lazzaro, a teaching assistant and Trent graduate who is continuing her studies through a Master of Arts in Anthropology. Olivia was also a part of the Ka'Kabish Archaeological Research Project (KARP) in Belize with Dr. Helen Haines, associate professor of Anthropology at Trent Durham.
The Ontario Archaeological Field School introduces students to methods from field survey to excavation. Students become familiar with equipment and learn about archaeological standards and guidelines. They acquire specific skills from bagging and tagging to cleaning and analysing artifacts, to mapping and proper digging techniques.
“I’m getting the exact experience I need to put on my resumé and to help me pursue my archaeological license if I choose,” says Stephanie.
As students consider careers in archaeology, forensic anthropology or cultural and heritage resource management, they learn time management, teamwork and pay attention to detail whether analysing changes in soil or producing meticulous documentation. They are also building a scientific legacy for future researchers who will analyze their work.
Ability to adapt
“Learning more about the local history so close to the campus is a really special experience,” says Professor Newton.
As the pandemic prevented Trent students from traveling to the annual excavation in Belize, Dr. Haines pivoted to create a safe, hands-on opportunity for students alongside Trent’s experts.
“We are a nimble campus,” states Dr. Scott Henderson, dean and head of Trent Durham. “It’s that ‘aha moment’ for students.”
The site of the dig is one of the four properties acquired by the University to match the growing needs of the campus. This project marks an exciting start to discovering the history in our own backyard at Trent University Durham.