10/04/2019 Peter Durantine

French Excavation Provides Hands-on Work for Anthropology Major

Last spring, when Franklin & Marshall College junior Will DeLince asked his professors what an anthropology major does over the summer, their answer to him was “fieldwork.” They directed him to the Institute for Field Research, where he signed up for a dig in France.

Between mid-June and mid-July, DeLince lived in southern France, near picturesque Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, where he worked with 15 undergraduate and graduate students, excavating a settlement that was founded in the Late Bronze Age, around 1000 B.C.E. 

The work was intense, sometimes laborious, often rewarding. The experience was exceptional.

  • At the recommendations of his F&M anthropology professors, DeLince signed up for the summer dig in France through the Institute for Field Research, At the recommendations of his F&M anthropology professors, DeLince signed up for the summer dig in France through the Institute for Field Research,

“At the end of it, I thought it was the best thing I have ever done,” DeLince said. “I’ve kept in touch with a lot of people I met; not by text, because it doesn’t translate well, but by letter.”

Associate Professor of Anthropology Scott Smith, one of DeLince’s professors who guided him to the study-abroad, field-school summer program, said such experiences are required for students considering anthropology or archaeology in graduate school.

“In archaeology, there’s kind of an apprenticeship where you need to learn field methodology,” Smith said. “A lot of our students attend a field school like this.”

DeLince described the archaeological site as atop a steep hill, where remnants of the settlement with a rampart remained.  The on-site archaeologist, Professor Alexis Gorgues of the University of Bordeaux, has theories about the settlement.

“He’s trying to determine how people used the site and the structures,” DeLince said. “He believes it’s an example of early urbanism.” 

The students cleared vegetation from a new area for excavation and began to dig. They mostly found small pieces of pottery, or quartz used to make the pottery, and grind stones used to take seeds off plants.

“We cleared layers of dirt that represented various times of occupation,” DeLince said. “We kept excavating until we found a new layer. It was fun, but challenging. All the layers looked similar, same colors and same rocks. We had to look closely to determine the differences.”

Each day began at the site at 6:30 a.m. and ended late at the laboratory (after a lecture) to clean and organize the found artifacts for later analysis.

“I found this little wool spindle, a circular piece of pottery with a hole in it that looked like a doughnut. It was so well preserved; there were no chips off it,” DeLince said. “I had this sort of moment when I found it. It was really cool.” 

At the end of the field study, Gorgues encouraged DeLince to consider graduate studies at the University of Bordeaux, where he teaches. 

“He said he sees that I have a lot of potential and could be a good archaeologist,” DeLince said. “I’m considering it.”

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