Mock archaeological dig gives Blinn students hands-on training

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Tables covered with gridded sections of bones and skulls transformed a typical classroom into a potential crime scene.

With precision and a trained eye, Blinn College District anthropology student Chloé Ramirez carefully sketched a plan map before transferring the specimens to her counterparts in a neighboring classroom.

For Blinn anthropology and archeology students, it served as their first experience excavating, analyzing, and interpreting evidence recovered from a simulated archaeological dig.

“Today I’m actually the crew chief, which is a little stressful, but really fun,” said Ramirez. “Archaeology is really humbling work and I admire anyone who does it. You are representing people who really do not have a voice.”

This project reflects the collaborative efforts of three Blinn anthropology courses, exposing students to the team environments they would encounter as practicing anthropologists and archaeologists on an actual dig.

“This project is a step away from some actual work I did in Central America. It ties together different aspects of science,” anthropology professor Margaret Bruchez said. “As a result, students get a hands-on appreciation of an anthropologist’s job.”

Introduction to archaeology students examine replica bones and skulls, carefully retrieving, documenting, and preparing their artifacts for transfer to introduction to biological anthropology for analysis and interpretation using equipment like spreading and sliding calibers and macroscopes. Introduction to anthropology students experience both sides of the spectrum by assisting with the collection of specimens and preparing analysis reports.

“These courses show students that there is another side to science beyond biology, chemistry, and physics,” said Dawn Marshall, anthropology professor. “There is a whole other world out there that you can investigate that is just as scientific, and is very interesting and engaging.”

The exercises bring course material and lectures to life beyond the classroom walls. From documenting photographic evidence to serving as United Nations observers charged with maintaining proper procedures and protocol, students reflect the full range of players involved in an actual criminal investigation. for communications studies student Mason Boone, this interactive project was a welcome surprise.

“I grew up watching investigative shows, so it is really interesting to see the actual science behind a lot of that,” said Boone. “Everything we do in class is hands-on and it is easier to learn when you are actually holding a skull in your hands versus reading about it in a book. I came into this class expecting to learn, but I did not expect to fall in love with the field.”

Blinn offers an associate of arts degree in anthropology that is available on campus and entirely online. The degree transfers seamlessly to many bachelor’s degree anthropology programs at four-year universities. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu/anthropology.

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