SAA 2022 attendees, from left: Isabella Roselli '22, Emily Walker '22, Nandini Subramaniam '22, Prof. Hannah Lau, Aidan Leahey '22, Elizabeth Arnold '22, Prof. Lacey Carpenter, Prof. Colin Quinn.
Five Hamilton archaeology majors had the opportunity to present their research at the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) 87th annual meeting held from March 30 to April 3 in Chicago.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Colin Quinn, who collaborated on the student research, said, "Having 5 student-led posters on 5 different topics is pretty unique. I would also say that the quality of our student's work is much more in line with what is expected of graduate student researchers at the conference. Often our students get mistaken for Ph.D. candidates." Other faculty who worked with the students and attended the conference were Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Lacey Carpenter and Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Hannah Lau.

Here seniors Liz Arnold, Nandini Subramanian, and Emily Walker describe the experience.

Elizabeth Arnold '22
Elizabeth Arnold '22 describes her research poster “Identity and communities of practice in Bronze Age Transylvania ceramics.”

Liz Arnold ’22

Among the highlights of attending the SAA annual conference was presenting my senior thesis research and discussing my work. My poster was part of a session directed by Professor Colin Quinn called Advances in Archaeological Science in Transylvania. In my thesis, “Identity and Communities of Practice in Bronze Age Transylvanian Ceramics,” I investigated the types of identities communicated through ceramic motifs in Bronze Age Transylvania and whether ceramics’ role in this communication changed over time as Transylvania underwent sociopolitical transformation. I found that, throughout the Middle Bronze Age, people transitioned from prioritizing signaling larger-scale identities to smaller-scale identities, revealing evidence of social segmentation and the possibility of change in the role of ceramic motifs as a signaling mechanism.

Although I had been working on this project all year and am confident in my knowledge, I was definitely nervous about having my work reviewed by professionals in the field. However, I was welcomed by people’s genuine interest in my work, and I had great conversations with faculty and students about shared interests and possible research ideas to build on my project or expand for the future. Being able to have these constructive, back-and-forth conversations was a perfect introduction to conference presentations and especially to archaeology as a discipline. Though it was intimidating at first, my experiences at Hamilton working with Professor Quinn and applying to graduate schools and communicating with multiple faculty prepared me well.

Upon graduating, I’ll be pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology/archaeology at UCLA. Attending the SAA meeting was a great way to learn about the variety of avenues I can take with my education, see what kinds of research people are doing, and establish possible network connections for future collaborations – especially with UCLA faculty and students I’ll be working with next year. Archaeology is such a narrow discipline, so being in a room with so many people who share my interests was a really cool experience and makes me excited for my future as an archaeologist. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the ability to attend this conference, and I cannot thank Hamilton enough for making this possible.

Nandini Subramaniam '22
Nandini Subramaniam '22 created a poster based on her research on “Funerary body modifications: Bone histologies of early Bronze Age Transylvania."

Nandini Subramaniam ’22

The focus of my thesis was on the embodiment of funerary modifications in skeletal remains from Early Bronze Age Transylvania. My aim was to explore how histology can be used to identify and differentiate between those modification practices and how they may provide insight into social and community-based ideas of death, status, and identity. I was really fortunate to work with [professors] Hannah Lau, Lacey Carpenter, and Colin Quinn and have their advice and guidance throughout this project.

In preparation for this conference, we were able to conduct a large amount of research on the assemblage. This included experimentally modifying pig bones to map differences in degeneration by funeral practice, conducting a Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates from the archaeological site to evaluate the role of activity periods in the variation of funeral practice, and using Scanning Electron Microscopy to examine microstructural changes to the human skeletal assemblage. Attending the SAA conference was a really exciting opportunity to learn about so many different research interests and to meet archaeologists whose works I had read before.

Emily Walker '22 and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Colin Quinn
Emily Walker '22 and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Colin Quinn with the poster describing their research "Geoarchaeological analysis of cemetery construction in early Bronze Age Transylvania.”

Emily Walker ’22

During a poster session at the SAA conference, I presented my senior research project findings regarding age and burial treatment within the Valley of Oaxaca during the Formative and Classic Periods (ca. 1500 BC-AD 900). The mortuary datasets that served as the foundation of the study were compiled from past publications and site reports by Professor Lacey Carpenter, Professor Sofía Pacheco-Forés of Hamline University, and me. Through statistical analysis including Fisher’s exact tests, I investigated if the relationships between the variables of burial location (cemetery or household), location within the household, burial context (tomb, cist, or grave), burial position, burial variation (the number of individuals buried together), and type of grave offering and age were significant and how this changed over time.

Presenting at this conference provided not only an invaluable opportunity to discuss my own research, but also the chance to learn about the research of prominent scholars specializing in a wide variety of subfields. My passion for the field of archaeology has primarily been fueled by these amazing opportunities. I also gained eight weeks of hands-on experience through Hamilton’s field school, co-authored and published an academic article with Professor Colin Quinn and Professor Alice Wright of Appalachian State University, and participated in a wide variety of lab, excavation, and research-based activities within the classroom. I am grateful to the department and the College for not only giving me so many chances for academic and professional development, but also for helping me discover my passion. I will continue to pursue archaeology at the University of Oxford next year to receive my master’s degree and plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the future. I hope that I can one day inspire and help other students find their future in archaeology, as the professors at Hamilton have done for me.

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