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The Seattle Collegian

News Central To You

November 22, 2019

Photo Credit: Tiffany-Ashton Gatsby

Central Students Dig Archaeology Class


This week, Seattle Central Archaeology students were treated to an over-the-top experiential educational opportunity. Susan Barclay, the instructor for several anthropology courses here at Central, including Medical Anthropology, was a last minute substitution to teach ANTH 204 this quarter, replacing tenured instructor Mohamad Al-Madani, who is taking this quarter off. Barclay’s classes are often highly interactive, as she strives to give students the opportunity for hands-on learning. This quarter, she took her hands-on approach to a new level.

Barclay (in the striped shirt), is seen here directing students on excavation techniques.

Barclay’s syllabus laid out two distinct projects for this quarter’s archaeology class. The first was an exercise in garbology, the study of modern waste and trash pioneered by University of Arizona professor, William Rathje, which was conducted earlier in the quarter. Barclay brought several bags of garbage to class. Students were able to sift through the trash using scientific archaeological methods to make deductions about the creator of the garbage being sorted, including household makeup, assumptions about where they lived, their age, income level and diet, among other things. While the garbology experiment was interesting and fun, it was definitely a bit stinky. The trash told the real story behind Puget Sound residents’ dining out habits and their lack of composting and recycling when living in areas without strict requirements on waste disposal.

–Students conveyed heartfelt gratitude towards Barclay for being able to be a part of this special class.

Barclay’s second big project for ANTH 204 is the mock-dig currently taking place at Seattle Central. Barclay wanted to ensure that this quarter, archaeology students had the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be out in the field on a real dig. Due to the time constraints of a fifty-minute class, going out into the field would be practically impossible. With an assist from her enthusiastic husband, Corey, Ms. Barclay brought in a 6’x2’x6’ structure to the 4th floor of the BE Building for the mock-dig excavation. They then filled the structure with rocks, dirt, mulch, leaves, and items designed to mimic archaeological features, like a partial wall and fire pit, mock artifacts like broken pottery and mock remains. Students were able to attempt to use archaeological digging techniques like the Wheeler-Kenyon Method, to grid out the site into quadrants, attempting to leave a ‘balk’ of ground material around each quadrant in order to display the different layers of strata within the dig site.

Barclay had originally planned for the mock-dig to be done over one class period on Wednesday, November 7th. The enthusiasm for the project was far greater than she expected and as the class was coming to an end, it was apparent the students had barely scratched the surface. Most students were taking the project very seriously, carefully measuring their dig sites, sifting through soil and collecting eco-fact samples. Barclay decided to extend the project so the students could take their time and really enjoy the experience to the fullest.

–It isn’t common for an instructor at the community college level to devote so much extra time and energy to prepare a comprehensive hands-on project for their students.

Many students expressed sincere gratitude towards Barclay and her husband Corey, who even came back on the second day of the dig to continue filming a time-lapse video for the class. It isn’t common for an instructor at the community college level to devote so much extra time and energy to prepare a comprehensive hands-on project for their students. The attention to detail, cost, and scale of an undertaking like this is quite impressive. Student Lori Mahieu commented, “I don’t know a better way for students at our level to get an experience like this. It’s pretty exciting.” Other students conveyed heartfelt gratitude towards Barclay for being able to be a part of this special class.

The mock-dig will continue at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 13th just outside of room BE 4105. If you’re interested in archaeology or want to see a fascinating project taking place on campus, stop by and take a peek. During Winter Quarter, Susan Barclay is scheduled to be teaching both Cultural Anthropology and Medical Anthropology. There are still a few seats open in these classes, but don’t expect them to be open for very long. An exceptional learning experience is sure to be waiting for you in any of Barclay’s classes.

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