University of Georgia

A Day of Georgia Archaeology

On a typical day, archaeologists at the Laboratory of Archaeology and Georgia Archaeological Site File at the University of Georgia (UGA) in the United States are busy doing research, training students, preserving and curating artifacts, and sharing information about the important pieces of Georgia history in our care.  We curate 11,000 boxes of artifacts and field records, which means that a normal day at the lab involves many people working on a variety of different tasks “to keep the party going” (to quote Laboratory of Archaeology Director, Dr. Mark Williams). Here’s a peek at just a few:

Professional Research

Dr. Victor Thompson and Rose Parham analyze artifacts from Mound Key, Florida.

Dr. Victor Thompson is a Professor in UGA’s Department of Anthropology, and the Director of UGA’s Center for Archaeological Sciences. He and Rose Parham, a UGA undergraduate student employee, are spending the day analyzing artifacts from recent fieldwork on Mound Key, an island in Estero Bay, Florida.





Dr. Jennifer Birch (left) with Co-Director Stefan Brannan and the rest of the 2017 SMASH field crew.

Dr. Jennifer Birch is an Assistant Professor in UGA’s Department of Anthropology. She leads UGA’s Singer-Moye Archaeological Settlement History (SMASH) field school at Singer-Moye, a Mississippian mound site in south Georgia. Right now, she and her students are washing and analyzing the artifacts they excavated during this research season. Next, the artifacts will be analyzed, photographed, put into archival bags and boxes, and placed into the lab’s curation facilities. Check out the SMASH blog to learn more about what Dr. Birch and her students have been up to all summer.

Students from the SMASH Field School wash and analyze artifacts.

Graduate Research

The Laboratory of Archaeology is the centerpoint for graduate research in archaeology, and the lab is currently assisting in numerous graduate research projects. Brandon Ritchison is a Ph.D. Candidate in UGA’s Department of Anthropology, and today he is using the lab’s computers and software to analyze data from Sapelo Island, Georgia, for his dissertation research.  He is using ArcMap, a digital mapping and spatial statistics software, to figure out the distributions of different kinds of artifacts at his site.  Many of these artifacts were found during UGA’s Colonial and Native Worlds field school, which ended last month.

Brandon Ritchison uses ArcMap to analyze spatial distributions of artifacts.

Experiential Learning

Rachel Horton recently graduated from UGA and is volunteering at the lab this summer to get more archaeological experience before applying to graduate school. Today, she is finishing up the analysis on a shovel test survey that was recently excavated during a public archaeology day on Ossabaw Island, Georgia. Undergraduate training is one of the lab’s top priorities, and UGA undergraduate students who work, volunteer, or conduct internships at the lab participate in experiential learning by analyzing and archiving archaeological collections, using 3D scanners and 3D printers, as well as conducting and presenting their own archaeological research.

Recent UGA graduate, Rachel Horton writes provenience information onto an artifact bag for curation.

Georgia Archaeological Site File

Undergraduate student employee, Nicole Oster searches for sites to fulfill a request from a CRM firm.

Nicole Oster is a UGA undergraduate who works at the Georgia Archaeological Site File. Today, she is processing requests for archaeological site data from a local cultural resource management (CRM) firm in Georgia.  The Site File curates all artifacts, paperwork, and site reports that are produced through CRM archaeology (archaeology that must happen before certain kinds of construction projects) in the state of Georgia. Nicole and the Site File team (which includes UGA graduate and undergraduate student employees) supervised by Assistant Manager, Mary Porter, recently completed a massive project where every one of the over 58,000 recorded archaeological sites in the state of Georgia was mapped and recorded into a searchable database of digital records.


Collections and Curation Management

Artifacts from Hickory Log included (left) a steatite hand and foot; (middle) fish remains; (right) glass beads.

Megan Anne Conger is a Ph.D. student in UGA’s Department of Anthropology.  Today she is working on rehabilitating a large archaeological collection from Hickory Log, a site that was occupied periodically for over a thousand years (Middle Woodland through Historic periods).  Employees at the lab spend a lot of time rehabilitating older archaeological collections to make sure that the artifacts and records are in proper archival condition.

Digital Curation

Video of 3D scanned shell gorget recovered from UGA’s Singer-Moye Archaeological Settlement History (SMASH) field school at Singer-Moye.

Amanda D. Roberts Thompson is the Assistant Director of the Laboratory of Archaeology and Georgia Archaeological Site File and today, she’s using a Next Engine 3D Laser Scanner to digitally reproduce artifacts for the Georgia Museum of Natural History’s Science Box.  After scanning the artifact, a copy of it will be printed using one of the lab’s three 3D printers, and the printed replica will be painted to resemble an even more exact copy of the original.  3D scanning and printing are digital curation practices, which give access to the lab’s collections from anywhere in the world. With 3D printed replicas, you can see, hold, and experience artifacts in exhibitions, classrooms, and outreach events without having to worry about the original object being damaged from transport or handling.

Public Outreach

Isabelle Lulewicz holding a copy of the UGA Junior Archaeologist workbook and badge that she helped create!

Isabelle Lulewicz is a Ph.D. student in UGA’s Department of Anthropology.  Today, she is packing up some UGA Junior Archaeologist workbooks and badges to give to children in local classrooms. The workbook is a recent collaboration between UGA’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS), graduate students, and the lab. The workbook was designed to introduce kids to the basic principles of archaeology and to teach them a little bit about the history of the Southeast. After completing the workbook, students sign a pledge to protect Georgia’s past, earning themselves an official Junior Archaeologist badge! CAIS and archaeologists here at the lab use these workbooks at public events throughout the state to get kids (and adults!) excited about archaeology.

If you want to keep up with day-to-day happenings around the lab, follow us on Instagram @uga.archaeolab, or “like” us on Facebook. If you want more information about how YOU can get involved with archaeology in Georgia, email us ( or visit our website.

A Nevada CRM Archaeologist

This is my first post for the Day of Archaeology event.  I’d like to begin by thanking the organizers, advisors, and sponsors for conceiving of and making this event happen.  It’s important that we discuss archaeology across the world and get our work out to a broad audience.  All most people know about archaeology is what they see on the Discovery Channel or from Indiana Jones.

The road I took to get to a career in archaeology involved several u-turns and a few speed bumps.  Here is a quick history.  When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, an airline pilot, or an archaeologist.  Since my family didn’t have the money for me to realize any of those goals I did what I thought was the next best thing and joined the Navy right out of high school.  I spent the next four and a half years working on EA-6B Prowlers as an aviation electronics technician.  During that time I went on a cruise on the USS Enterprise for six months in the Mediterranean and in the Persian Gulf.  We saw some great cities with great archaeology and history.  At this time, archaeology was something you saw on TV and included crusty old PhDs working in universities.  I never considered it as a career.

Near the end of my time in the Navy a random phone call landed me in commercial flight training at the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  While there I received my private pilot’s license and finished the training for a few other licenses.  After a year and a half I transferred to the University of North Dakota to continue my flight training at the nations largest and most advanced collegiate flight training school.  UND Aerospace has an amazing program with state of the art aircraft and flight simulators.  It was a great experience.

While I was taking aviation classes I filled up my general education requirements with anthropology classes.  I still loved the science of archaeology, in particular paleoanthropology, but still didn’t see it as a career option.  I’m not sure why.  I think it was still just one of those fantasy fields that you never think you are capable of performing.

After a couple of years I started to lose my desire to fly commercially.  I just didn’t think I would get any satisfaction from shuttling people around the country for the rest of my life.  Sure the pay is good but there are a lot of things you can do that involve less stress if all you want is money.  I need a job that makes me feel good at the end of the day and that I look forward to going to everyday.  Since I still didn’t see archaeology as an option, even though I had taken most of the classes offered, I spent the next couple of years taking photography and math classes just for fun.  I know, I like math.  I’m probably the only CRM archaeologist that has used SOHCAHTOA to determine the exact angle for a transect.

During my penultimate year in college my professor, Dr. Melinda Leach, told me that I could graduate in one year with a degree in anthropology.  I just had to take all of the upper level classes and that would be it.  With no other direction I decided to go for it.  I had to take 18 credits during the fall and 15 credits during the spring and write, I think, five or six research papers during the year but in the end I graduated.  After graduation I went back to Seattle and worked with my brother’s father in law’s home remodeling company.  I hated it.

In the fall I went back to North Dakota to help with the big event that the department had planned the previous year.  We had Jane Goodall coming to speak to a packed house.  One day, while sitting in the student lounge, a former student, and friend, came up to me and said hi.  He was visiting because hurricane Katrina had destroyed his apartment in New Orleans and his company laid everyone off for a little while.  He asked what I was doing.  At the time I was getting ready to go on an Earthwatch expedition to dig in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.  After that I had no plans.  He asked if I had checked Shovelbums.  Shovel what?

I educated myself on, prepared my CV, and started on a job in Minnesota a week after I returned from Africa.  That was in October of 2005 and I’ve been in CRM ever since.  I’ve worked at all times of the year, on all phases of field archaeology and in 13 states.

In August of 2009 I began a one year MS program at the University of Georgia.  The program was intense but I received my Master of Science in Archaeological Recourse Management in July of 2010.  I’m currently working in the Great Basin of Nevada and love every minute of it!

So, I guess that wasn’t too brief.  My fiancé will tell you that brevity is not a trait that I possess.  Hopefully someone will get out of this that it’s never too late and you are never too old to get into the dynamic field of anthropology.   There are many paths that you can take to get to anthropology and there are just as many that you can take along your career.

My Chief in the Navy once told me how he decides whether a job or a position is right for him.  He said to look around at the people that have been doing your job and are at the ends of their careers.  Are they happy?  Are they doing what you would want to do?  My favorite thing about archaeology is that you can’t really tell what the future will bring.  You could be running a company, teaching at a university, or hosting your own show on the Discovery Channel, if they ever get back to science and history shows and away from reality shows.  The possibilities are nearly endless.

In my next post I’ll talk about the project I’m on right now and the wonders of monitoring.


Written northeast of Winnemucca, NV.