F is for Field Work

You know those ethnographies I was talking about yesterday? They aren’t possible without field work.

Anthropological field work involves traveling to a location and working in the context of what you’re studying. For some, that means living among the people and culture but, for others, it means going to where the people being studied are buried (because they lived thousands of years ago). Because I focused on bioarchaeology, my field work consisted mostly of the latter.

In undergrad, I went to a summer field school in Kampsville, Illinois for a truly unique experience. Students in the archaeology track excavated an ancient mound (with permission from the Native American tribe to which those individuals belonged) and students in the lab track (like myself) studied  previously-excavated skeletons. Both tracks were educational, but we got to do a little real-world work. Kampsville itself is a village of about 200 residents, too. Talk about a new experience!

In grad school, I collected some interview data for a Lyme Disease study in a number of capacities. Talking on the phone with individuals, sitting out in the forest like a creeper watching people put themselves at varying levels of risk for Lyme Disease, and collecting ticks off of deer (we lived a glamorous life in that program) were all elements of field work.

Some of my luckier friends spent a summer in Vanuatu collecting data for a different project. That’s the kind of field work that makes people envious.

Note to self: stop doing field work in hot, humid places. Pacific islands are much better choices.

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I mean, duh, right? 

Field work makes the anthropological research world go around!

Author: JA Goodsell

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is INNATE, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @JAGoodsell or Instagram at books_and_dogs

4 thoughts

  1. My first dig was in a dirt quarry in rural North Dakota. It was an 8,000 year old paleo indian site which predates pottery. We mostly had fire pits, lithics, and bison bones. I would have loved to have something a bit more exciting! I did find a point though, and we had a baby bison skull in one pit that we got to go at with brushes and little picks.

    Liked by 1 person

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