2017 Grant Award: Reilly Ebbs

Archaeology is a practice that should never be mistaken as a “soft science”. There is nothing soft about archaeology or anthropology. It takes patience, strong attention to detail, and lots of physical and mental work. For ten hours a day, kneeling in the dirt, digging away with pick axes or paint brushes and spoons. It was tedious work, but at the end of the day when you moved closer to uncovering a fully intact human skeleton from the 11th century, it made the blood, sweat and tears all worth it.

I was drawn to anthropology after I took an intro to archaeology class at Penn State when I was a senior at State High. Professor Kirk French opened my eyes to a field, I assumed, was related to digging up dinosaurs (completely different field of study). It takes history, biology, evolution and general questions of human culture and produces a field of study that attempts to recreate societies of the past with little to no evidence. They take shattered pottery and link trade routes throughout Europe or use medieval bones in graveyards to uncover the history behind the church that once stood where we dug.

I want to be a lawyer, but I have a passion for history and with that anthropology addresses the specific questions history poses and attempts to rebuild and analyze these scenarios. As tacky as it may sound, we are completely unable to build a future for ourselves without understanding how we have evolved from our past.

In the three weeks that I attended the University of Pisa’s biological archaeological field school, I observed a few important ideas. You will only get out what you put into something. When else would I have the opportunity to spend that much time outside, learning about a field that not many understand. I learned that friendships can be made anywhere and with people who are very different from yourself. When you spend every day digging, you really get to know people on a personal level. I also learned the importance of diligent work. I tend to rush things. I like to get things done, but what I learned is no matter how fast I dug one hole, there were three more holes waiting! I worked on gaining patience and not rushing the process.

This experience really reinforced the notion that hard work pays off as my confidence level in what I was doing and how I was excavating materials and skeletal remains improved dramatically. This was an experience that expanded my ability to adapt to environments outside my comfort level while building upon my personal growth as a student and scholar.