Over the past 12 months I have had the privilege of introducing a class of Rutgers-Camden undergraduate students to archaeological fieldwork through a CRM project in Salem Co, NJ. Whispering Woods consists of 9 registered site ranging from Middle Woodland through to 20th century. Over the course of two semesters, students were introduced to key concepts in archaeology through a series of fun, hands-on activities. For instance, we learned about stratigraphy by “excavating” dirt cake in which several features and “artifacts” (gummy bones, candy coins and bottles) had been deposited. We constructed a timeline of human history where 1cm equaled 10 years, resulting in over 30 ft of images of artifacts, archaeological sites, and works of art depicting key events and cultures. We practiced mapping, plan drawings, and analyzed each other through the material culture of our personal affects.
The highlight of the class was the 7 weeks each semester that we spent in the field. Most of our work concentrated on high-density shovel tests, though a small number of excavation units were excavated. The students enthusiastically tackled every weekly session and it was clear that they truly enjoyed class, the physical labor, and each other’s company. Their excitement at finding lumps of rusted metal, broken glass, or fragments of brick was equal to that of finding gold! It was a joy to spend time with every one of them. I was especially proud of the class during our “Open Day” – a Saturday afternoon they freely gave up to host the local community at our site, supervise the public as they excavated two of our units, and share with our visitors what doing archaeology meant to them. A blog of our class and the Whispering Woods project can be found at www.RUdigging.camden.rutgers.edu. I am indebted to Ani Hatza, Tovah Mitchell, Alex Denning, and Jennifer Falchetta for their help co-supervising the class.
Kimberlee Sue Moran, MSc, RPA
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice
311 N. 5th Street, room 352
Camden, NJ 08102