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VCU Archaeology

A sense of actually becoming an archaeologist

by Cameron Walker, Digital Zooarchaeologist

This past semester was my second semester as an intern for the Virtual Curation Laboratory, and my first semester as the lab’s Digital Zooarchaeologist. As you could probably infer from my generous job title, I spent a great deal of my time working with the seemingly endless supply of zooarchaeological resources within the lab. My duties ranged anywhere from printing previously scanned faunal remains, to labeling some of the bones printed throughout the semester, and to identifying the bones stored within the lab. However, my primary focus for this semester was working on the zooarchaeology portion of the lab’s research kits and their associated spreadsheets and filing system.

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This task primarily consisted of me sorting through all of the faunal resources, whether they were archaeologically oriented, or scans of bones that are modern. I had to come up with a master-list of sorts that shows a clear and scientific total of all of the bones scanned within the lab, those that have already been printed and bones that we have yet to scan. While actually sorting through everything was difficult enough, the forming of this “master-list” was probably the most time consuming duty. Our focus would take a different course, or new information would come up and I would have to sit down and readdress my format behind chronically all things zooarchaeolog oriented. Which, as it turns out, was a productive and shockingly entertaining way for me to be of service within the lab.

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Besides just working on a way to see what we had within the lab, I spent a lot of time sorting our printed bones into research kits. These kits will be used by future students in Dr. Means’ Archaeological Methods course, in conjunction with the numerous other kits pertaining to different research subjects. Also, by the time the printed bones got to me it seemed like all of the hard work was already done; with the bones almost always painted, beautifully mind you, and labeled, all I had to do was place them in a kit that correlated with the “master-list” that I had created. Basically what I did in the lab can be used to demonstrate the teamwork that takes place amongst all of the interns. My skills best fit sitting at a computer and “geeking” out over all of the artifacts, while others spent hours making sure all of these artifacts looked as accurate as possible.

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Spending a large chunk of my time searching through the lab’s database, and sorting through all of our printed artifacts for faunal remains really helped hone my bone identification skills. I came into my internships with an interest in all things pertaining to animals within the archaeological record, but without any opportunity to delve into this interest or pick up any related skills. This experience gave me the opportunity to both see what working in a lab would be like, as well as the chance to gain confidence in my own abilities that I may well need in the future. Essentially, my past year within the lab gave me a sense of actually becoming an archaeologist, which is something that I’m sure plenty of other interns have experienced in their time in the lab.

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