Wooster Scholars Share Research at National Archaeology Meeting

Students and faculty make presentations at annual gathering in Austin, Texas

30 May, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — A group of students and faculty from The College of Wooster had an opportunity to share their research with some of the world's preeminent archaeological scholars at the 79th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) last month in Austin, Texas. The event, which is the largest of its kind, attracted an estimated 4,500 professionals and students from around the world.

"The SAA is one of the premier archaeological associations," said Nick Kardulias, professor of sociology, anthropology, and archaeology at Wooster. "It draws attendees from five continents, so for our undergraduates to present the results of their research at the major archaeological event of the year in North America is an unparalleled opportunity."

Six of Wooster's eight representatives graduated earlier this month, including Stephanie Bosch, an archaeology and geology double major from Elkins Park, Pa., who discussed her geoarchaeological investigation of the Provenance of Chert Artifacts from the Prehistoric Wansack Site in Western Pennsylvania. Her project, which was advised by Kardulias, focused on what the patterns of raw material procurement at Wansack can show about the changing dynamics of mobility, economic structures, and trading relationships from the Archaic through the Late Prehistoric period in the upper Ohio River drainage.

Joining Bosch was Peregrine Grosch, an archaeology major from Oak Island, N.C., who also was advised by Kardulias. He examined the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the context of the abandonment of Britain through an analysis of the archaeological record at the sites of Calleva Atrebatum and Vindolanda, each of which revealed indications of the downfall of traditional city life and the ultimate demise of the Empire.

Also presenting was Emily Kate, an archaeology and anthropology double major from Dundee, Ohio. She worked with Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology, and archaeology at Wooster, on an osteological analysis of burials recovered from excavations at the site of Cerro Magoni in the Mezquital Valley of Mexico. The resulting data helped establish the chronological period during which Cerro Magoni was occupied while addressing questions of cultural continuity, population migration, and socioeconomic and political structure.

Another member of the Wooster contingent was Anna Mazin, an archaeology major from Cheltenham, Pa. She worked with Navarro-Farr to identify who would have been responsible for ceramic production in Hohokam society and how the organization of production reflects the structure of that society. Her research indicated that the continuation and evolution of ceramic designs reflected the transmission of the craft from teacher to student.

Brian Porrett, an archaeology major from Glenview, Ill., worked with Kardulias on a world-systems perspective of Early Bronze Age Fortifications in the Levant, where the lands of Canaan and Judah were situated between larger and more-populated nations. The application of a world-systems analysis framework to sites with fortification walls in this region permitted unique insight into the political systems at work in early state formation and revealed diverse fortification construction strategies tailored to the specific needs of these communities.

Rounding out the list of recent graduates who presented was Ashleigh Sims, an archaeology and anthropology double major from Fair Oaks, Calif., who worked with Kardulias in the study of national and local identity at a modern cemetery in Athienou, Cyprus. Her analysis demonstrated how the cemetery, through the attributes of the gravestones and the overall layout, exemplified the cultural identity of the people interred there. It also enhanced our understanding of the cultural identity, social structure, and status of corporate groups in a given society.

In addition to the six recent Wooster graduates, two others — Whitney Goodwin and Chelsea Fisher — also presented at the meeting. Goodwin, a 2008 Wooster graduate and currently a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Southern Methodist University, discussed "New Lines of Evidence for Examining Identity Expression Among Prehispanic Coastal Populations of Northeastern Honduras," and chaired a session, titled "New Definitions of Southeastern Mesoamerica: Indigenous Interaction, Resilience, and Change." Fisher, a 2011 Wooster graduate and a Ph.D. student in anthropology at The University of Michigan, talked about "The Poorness of the Soil Takes Away Hope: Resolving Ethnohistoric and Archaeological Evidence for Food Security in the Northern Maya Lowlands."

Other Wooster alumni who attended the conference were Aubrey Brown, a 2008 graduate who earned a master's degree at Youngstown State University and is now a historic preservation specialist with the Knox County Convention and Visitor's Bureau; Andrew Womack, a 2007 graduate and currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University; and Dr. Jody Clauter, a 1999 graduate and now a museum curator in Laramie, Wy.

Kardulias and Navarro-Farr also shared their own research in Austin. Kardulias presented "Prehistoric Earthworks in Wayne County, Ohio," a collaborative project conducted with Nigel Brush (Ashland University), Roger Rowe (Wayne County Historical Society,) and Gregory Wiles (College of Wooster). The study focused on nearby mounds: their features, their common elements, their distribution in the county, and the types of artifacts they contain. The group concluded that many of the earthworks probably served as ceremonial markers and gathering places in a landscape thinly populated by people.

Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology, and archaeology at Wooster, spoke about "Royal Ritual and Public Memory at the City Shrine of Ancient El Peru-Waka': The Archaeology of Burial 61," which recounted her historic discovery of the final resting place of Waka's Royal Queen Lady K'abel. Her exploration team consisted of Griselda Perez Robles (Proyecto Arqueologico El Peru-Waka'), Stanley Guenter (Idaho State University), Erin Patterson (Tulane University) and Keith Eppich (Collin College).