By Victoria Lincoln, Tribal Archaeology Section Intern
My name is Victoria Lincoln, I am a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) studying Anthropology and History and also am employed with Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). Upon graduating I intend to further my education by attending graduate school focusing solely on archaeology within the Southeast! For the past six months, I have had the pleasure of interning with the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) within the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). Through this internship, I have gained hands-on experience in the preparation, execution, and documentation of Phase I and II cultural resource surveys.
Before joining the TAS as an intern, I had limited knowledge or experience with pre-excavation strategies. In May 2016, I attended a field school hosted by FGCU. At this field school, students were immersed in Phase III fieldwork and learned the process of an excavation. However, this was done without learning any of the other phases of archaeological investigations (Phase I and Phase II). Although I learned a lot from this field school, I lacked the ability to perform Phase I and Phase II surveys. To prepare for my future career as an archaeologist, I felt I needed to enhance these skills. Surveying land, performing Phase I shovel tests, and setting up Phase II excavation units are essential to professional archaeological fieldwork. The archaeology internship program provided by the TAS allowed me to really dig my heels in and explore the realities of Tribal Archaeology.
This internship was divided into four stages. First, I learned how to conduct desktop analyses, then Phase I and II cultural resource surveys, which made up the majority of the internship. The final two portions of the internship consisted of lab work and report writing. This structure allowed me to quickly immerse myself in skills valued by contract archaeology firms, THPOs, and State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO).
The first month of the internship was dedicated to getting acquainted with Geographic Information System (GIS), a tool used by archaeologists to store, manage, analyze, and interpret spatial and geographic data. Knowledge and experience with GIS is extremely sought after by employers. While working with TAS, I used GIS to create maps of the Areas of Potential Effect for numerous projects. I learned how to create modern aerial maps, historic maps, topographic maps, and elevation maps. In doing so, I gained an appreciation for the background research involved in archaeological investigations. Another important step in desktop analysis is determining the probability of encountering cultural material in an archaeological survey. By working closely with the TAS crew, I began to determine this probability myself and plot to be excavated shovel tests in GIS. Over the course of my six-month internship, I have completed nearly 20 desktop analyses putting me well ahead of my fellow classmates who have never used GIS.
As mentioned previously, field work made up the majority of the internship. This is the step where APEs previously mapped out during the desktop analysis are visited and Phase I shovel tests are excavated. I was taken out with TAS employees to sites on the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations, where I was able to learn how to maneuver through hammocks and cypress domes. Although this was definitely challenging, it was by far my favorite part of the internship. During Phase I surveys, I excavated holes to a depth of 100 centimeters. I did not encounter any archaeological artifacts during my time with TAS. Nonetheless, I think this phase of the internship provided a valuable means of understanding the preparation, challenges, and documentation involved in archaeological fieldwork, skills that will undoubtedly be useful in gaining future employment as an archaeologist.
As the hot summer days of May came upon the Reservations, I began alternating between lab work and report writing. I became acquainted with the process of cleaning, organizing and documenting cultural resources in the Collections Lab. I had very little experience working in labs prior to this internship. My time in the lab allowed me to gain knowledge in the specific steps taken to ensure cultural materials are handled in an ethical way. Lastly, I learned how to write reports. This was probably one of the less exciting things, but an essential part of any scientific fieldwork. After each cultural resource survey, a report is completed explaining the reason for the fieldwork, the scope of the project, and the results of the survey. Just attending classes at university did not allow me to effectively interpret archaeological investigations. Lab work and report writing allowed me to look at results from the field and confidently communicate findings. This ability will greatly aid me in attaining my future goals.
Overall, this internship was an amazing experience which allowed me to become better acquainted with field work and the steps taken prior to Phase I and Phase II excavations. Throughout this internship, TAS’ perspectives and strategies were shared broadening my archaeological perspective. I have also gained a newfound understanding and respect for the views the Seminole Tribe hold regarding their cultural materials and their history. This internship opportunity allowed me to understand the importance of collaborating with indigenous groups and their representatives on research; they share valuable knowledge of the area and people who lived there. This type of collaboration can help to avoid pitfalls in projects archaeologists face when they attempt to downplay indigenous roles and rights. All in all, this internship allowed for hands-on involvement in the field I wish to work in upon graduating. It allowed me to become confident using the tools I need to complete archaeological surveys. As I come to the end of this internship, I feel much more stable in my pursuit of a career in archaeology.