College students participate in archaeological dig

·2 min read

Jul. 1—Students from six colleges recently completed an archaeological dig at the Hartwick College Pine Lake Environmental Campus in West Davenport.

The camp was held June 1, through June 30, is a partnership between Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, and is held every other year for students to learn how to complete a dig site, SUNY Oneonta Anthropology Professor Renee Whitman said. Whitman, Hartwick assistant professor Namita Sugandhi and Kasey Heiser, a SUNY Oneonta alumnus and a graduate of Binghamton University, led the students on the dig.

According to a media release, this is the only prehistoric field school in the region. It's also one of the only field schools where students spend time in the field and in the lab, processing found artifacts, analyzing and completing data entry.

Whitman said the students worked each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and two nights per week attended a two-hour class. Seven students from SUNY Oneonta, two from Hartwick, two from SUNY Buffalo, and one each from Syracuse University, SUNY New Paltz and Albany University participated in the class, she said.

"Students learn basic excavation methods that are used throughout North America," she said. "They learn to identify basic artifacts and learn how to do paperwork. They record what they found and where they found it."

The dig site was next to Charlotte Creek and unearthed some artifacts dating back 2,000 years, she said. At the beginning of the month students participated in one dig, then each student was given their own unit to dig and catalog what they found, she said. These included remnants of stone tools, stone fragments used to make the tools and pottery. Past digs have unearthed a 4,000-year-old cooking hearths to fire pits, the release said.

Willa Ness, a senior at Hartwick College, said she plans to go to graduate school for anthropology and found a biface* stone tool fragment and 390 flakes* biproducts of stone tools. Ness said while she had fun at the dig site, she realized she did not want to become an archaeologist.

Whitman said part of the reason for the class is to give students the opportunity to be on a dig site to see if they want to pursue a career in archaeology. "This is a really good way for students to experience field work before heading to graduate school," she said.

Whitman also said the tools students receive in the field — learning to work as a group and independently and learning organizational skills — help them in the future no matter what field of study they enter.

* This was updated to correct what was found.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221.