Shantell Mitchell: Kansai Gaidai Internship Program: Not Getting Lost

I have always been afraid of traveling on my own, even if it was in my own neighborhood. Sometimes going the store by myself was difficult for me. Living on a college campus and having my own car has really helped me get better at traveling on my own. However, when I got to Japan there were so many things that I wanted to do and see but I was to afraid to explore on my own. On my trip we had the opportunity to explore on our own for one day in each country.

Side note: Something that I liked that my professor did that I really liked was that he made all of the participants use a map to figure out how to get around Japan. We used trains and buses to get around so that by the end of the trip we were all experienced in reading the maps, train signs, and bus signs. Which I really loved considering that I am going to be living in Japan for a year. I can now go back and there won’t be much of learning curve. I also loved how we used the physical maps rather than Google maps.  Some people have never even used a map before. Sure it was frustrating as hell at times, nonetheless, it was a great experience! Professor D’Amato (coolest guy ever and he should let me be student leader next time he goes) if you are reading this, I learned some shit, thanks!

Anyway, back to the original story, sorry. Like I said, I regret not getting lost, essentially. I would have been able to see so much more and experience so much more of the culture. But don’t be mistaken, I did not just sit around my hotel twiddling my thumbs (okay one day for like 3 hours but we had climbed a mountain the day before and I was dead) I explored the local areas and went to book stores and museums I stayed 30 minutes walking distance from the hotel and there was a lot of things to do just in that area. But I do wish I went other places but I will not be making that same mistake when I go in August.

Shantell Mitchell: Kansai Gaidai Internship Program: Currency Culture Shock

So while I was cleaning up my room and unpacking some things I brought home from college, I ended up stumbling upon some charms that I got from 金閣寺 (kinkaku-ji) in 挙党、日本 (Kyoto, Japan). While I was looking through the bags I found a few receipts and I was absolutely shocked at how much money I had actually spent. Just in that bag alone, I had found two receipts totaling around 8,000円!
友達:「どうしてシャンテルさん。どうして。」私: 「わかない!も。日本の買い物は本当にすごいですよ。」

So to save you a little time I’ll just tell you what 8,000 yen is equivalent to—it’s roughly, give or take, $70. You want to know what one of the receipts was for? Twenty face masks. I spent $70 on face masks. Mind you the entire time I knew the conversation rate to the dollar while I was in Japan. Guys, I am so frugal I even refuse to fill up my car when I have been driving on empty for a questionable amount of miles. What was I thinking, you ask? Well, I wasn’t, clearly. I was just so excited that I was in Japan, buying everything my little heart desired, and to be fair I only ran out of money on the very last day of my trip. Still, I can think of a million other things I could have invested that $70 dollars into but c’est la vie. Je vais devoir vivre avec elle. Pas de problème. All the money I spent I had saved for this trip so I guess it’s okay. No, it is okay! I am just going to need to get my life together before August.

Stephanie Benzur: Reflections on the Excavation Experience

(Originally dated Aug. 4, 2017): Today was the last day of the excavation, and it was very bittersweet. This half of the excavation involved opening up two new trenches in front of the tomb and excavating the interior of the tomb, something I was very excited for. I got to be one of the first ones to excavate the tomb since I was there for the first half. We all rotated, so I only got two days in the tomb. It was worth it though.

Excavation around the tomb

Burial practices of the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age almost always consisted of cremation burials, so that’s what we expected to find. I had high hopes for finding pottery or some other grave goods in the tomb, but unfortunately there weren’t any. We did however find large quantities of bone, some cremated, some not. I discovered two fire pits in the tomb, and one of the directors said that they’d never discovered fire pits in all their years of excavation. We bagged the hearths and all of the surrounding soil. The excavation of the tomb continued for the rest of the session with different people rotating in each day. They all found more cremated and non-cremated bone.

Outside the tomb, the finds weren’t as good as they were in the previous session. They mostly consisted of animal and human bone fragments, with more flakes from stone tools. One of the volunteers found a beautiful bronze dress pin, but it most likely dates to the Medieval period. I didn’t find anything else major, but nothing could have compared to the arrowhead anyway.

By the tomb

All in all, the excavation was definitely the most wonderful experience of my life. I learned valuable archaeological skills such as excavation, site planning and modeling, and artifact identification. It really solidified my desire to be an archaeologist, and I can’t wait to continue with future excavations.

I even made the front page of the local newspaper!

Stephanie Benzur: Doing Archaeology in Ireland

(Originally dated June 24, 2017): The first session of the field school is all wrapped up. What an amazing month! Archaeology is my passion, but until now I’ve never had the chance to participate in an actual excavation. This year, the field school is excavating the Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb on the Burren in County Clare. The tomb is from the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Period and dates back to about 5000 years ago. This is exactly the kind of site I want to study.

The Tomb

The first few days consisted of removing sod and grass. One of the volunteers found a Neolithic thumb scraper used for scraping flesh off of animal skin. This was really interesting because it predated the site. Other than that, the finds mostly consisted of large amounts of bone, mostly animal. Later that week we finally began troweling. I thought it would be a bit boring but it definitely wasn’t. When excavating a site, you remove different layers of soil that are referred to as contexts. We removed the first two or three contexts in the first week or so. After a few days of no major finds, I uncovered what the director later said was the most important find of the entire dig: a Neolithic arrowhead! It was made out of a stone called chert and absolutely beautiful. Definitely one of the best moments of my life. That same day, one of the site directors uncovered what turned out to be what is referred to as crouched inhumation: an articulated skeleton that had been buried in the fetal position. He and another student in the field school spent the next two days uncovering and then lifting it. Later examination revealed something incredible: he had been stabbed in the ribs! This was his likely cause of death. These were the two largest finds of the first half of the dig. The finds from the rest of the session consisted of human and animal bone fragments and stone flakes from tools. After four wonderful weeks, the first half wrapped up. But, I decided to stay on for the second half! I was asked to stay on and continue, and I just couldn’t say no. So, after a two-week break, I’ll be back on site to continue digging!

Neolithic arrowhead!