It’s been a busy year so far here at Rogers Archaeology Lab. We’ve welcomed several new interns since January, including Samantha Linford, whose blog post on Mongolian Pastoralists you may have read. While she was here she also co-wrote an article with Dr. Rogers titled Modeling the Sustainability of Wealth Among Pastoralists, which has been submitted for publication. Samantha has recently graduated from University of California Santa Cruz, and is currently doing archaeological survey work in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Samantha was a great help to have around the museum and we wish her well in her future endeavors!
Samantha Linford examining pottery sherds from the Island of Nevis that we were preparing for return after being on loan to the museum for research. Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin
Currently with us for Summer 2013, we have Nicole Coscolluela and Julia Grasso. Nicole recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics and Archaeology. She is moving to Scotland in August to start her program towards a Master’s of Science degree in Human Osteoarchaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Julia is a current graduate student in Anthropology with a Museum Training concentration at The George Washington University.
From left: Julia Grasso, Madeline Shaffer, and Nicole Coscolluela. Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin.
Nicole and Julia have been busy working on the interpretation of the River Basin Survey site, Cattle Oiler (39ST224), that we have been cataloguing for the past several months. Nicole is deciphering the gendered use of quill flatteners at Cattle Oiler, while Julia has been focusing on foodways by collecting data on ceramic types found at the site. In order to do this, she had to learn how to predict the measurements of a pot’s rim diameter from a small piece of its broken rim, which is usually what we find in archaeological sites. By taking these measurements, we can discover all the different sizes of vessels in use at the site—a kind of prehistoric Native American Julia Child’s kitchen, if you will!
Dan teaching Julia and Maddy how to measure rim sherd diameters. Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin.
Both interns have been assisting Dr. Rogers and I with the interpretation of the context of the objects found at the site using the original site reports made by the excavators; archival resources, such as photographs of the dig in process; and other literature on the River Basin Survey. We have also reached out to our colleagues Eric Hollinger and Bill Billeck, who have expertise in Plains archaeology, to find out more about the uses of certain objects, such as the Catlinite tablet found at Cattle Oiler (39ST224) and the bone ice gliders from H.P. Thomas (39ST12). We look forward to sharing more about this research with you soon.
Our former Federal Work Study student, Madeline Shaffer has also recently joined our team to assist with background research on the NSF Mason-Smithsonian Joint Project on Climate and Societal Modeling. She has been researching relationships between social systems and climate change, focusing on global-scale social trends. These trends include population growth, human migration responses, mortality rates, risk of conflict, and economic response in relation to current and future climate change. Madeline has also been studying the cultural geography of Sub-Saharan Africa, in order to develop a summary of multiple aspects of social systems within the region that may be applied to currently developing CDI models.
It hasn’t been all work here, though! We had a lot of fun at the Annual Staff Picnic at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival a couple weeks ago. We enjoyed the wide variety of food choices and music, and made sure to browse through all the great items for sale in the marketplace. Our favorite part of the festival may have been this awesome Puli Dog Sculpture, by Hungarian artist, Gábor Miklós Szőke.
We also attended the Department of Mineral Sciences Laboratories Open House in late June. The interns and museum staff were invited to come and learn how diamonds are used in their High Pressure Lab; how microbes eat and transform rocks and minerals in their Geomicrobiology lab; and more! We cringed with Elizabeth Cottrell and Brent Grocholski, as they described what it sounds like when a diamond shatters, as sometimes happens during their experiments to understand how minerals behave at deep pressures in the earth. For the curious, it sounds like popping bubble wrap! Using the culets (or points) of diamonds, they crush tiny amounts of a mineral between the two diamonds, capitalizing on the diamond’s amazing strength, and measure the resulting changes in the mineral’s state. They can even look through the flawless top facet of the diamonds to watch what is happening!
Left: Elizabeth Cottrell shows us the hand crank that is used to add pressure to the contents of the small device pictured, which contains the diamonds, while Brent Grocholski watches. Right: Diagram of how the diamonds come together inside the device.
We especially enjoyed the inter-relatedness of the Geomicrobiology lab’s research to our research on climate and environmental change. Dominique Chaput explained to us how she is working to develop techniques to strip manganese out of ground water that has been polluted through coal mining (one of the many sources of anthropogenic climate change). We also enjoyed their taste in décor…
“We put the fun in Fungi” sign in the Department of Mineral Sciences Geomicrobiology lab. Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin
Algae and fungi growing in the Geomicrobiology lab. Photo Credit: Meghan Mulkerin
This tour acquainted staff outside of the Mineral Sciences Department with the types of analytical tools that are available to them through cross-departmental collaboration. Some of these tools include an electron probe microanalyzer (pinpoint analysis of materials); an analytical NanoSEM with EDS and CL (high resolution imaging and analysis of just about anything!); a Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (solar wind samples and blood in an ancient mosquito in the same lab!); an X-ray Diffractometer (mineral “fingerprinting”); a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (measure water and carbon dioxide in rocks!); and a Luminoscope (spectacular imaging of minerals like you have never seen before). We learned a lot, and thank our colleagues for their great open house! This is just another example of the kinds of fascinating things interns are exposed to at the National Museum of Natural History. To learn more about internships at Natural History, please visit the Intern and Fellows website of NMNH, or the listing of all internships at the Smithsonian.
Until next time!
-Meghan Mulkerin, Collections Specialist Contractor