New archeology facility enriches student experiences

imageSUNY Oswego’s anthropology students can get even more hands-on experience with the addition of an indoor archeology lab in the basement of Mahar Hall.

“The goal is to give students some sense of how excavation works,” said Dr. Steve Saraydar, associate professor of anthropology. Unlike the outdoor site, the new facility is accessible year-round.

The lab, in Room 2 or Mahar Hall, opened last spring and can be used by students in various introductory and advanced archaeology and forensic anthropology courses, Saraydar said, as well as for demonstrations for local schoolteachers and their classes.

Besides building a large space for the soil where experimental excavations take place, campus workers who converted the former storage room into the archeology lab added new lighting and a heating system and partitioned off a corner still used by cleaning staff.

The indoor lab complements the outdoor experimental archaeology site north of Mahar Hall that Saraydar established five years ago, when he revamped the teaching of archeology at Oswego to incorporate lab and field experience to an extent that was rare at the undergraduate level.

Experimental dig facilities are becoming more common at colleges, Saraydar said, but with the addition of the indoor facility, “I haven’t seen anything quite like what we have here.”

The indoor and outdoor locations where students actually unearth buried objects are complemented by the kind of computer and electronic tools that professional archeologists use, Saraydar said.

The latest acquisition is a total station, which is used for surveying a complete site and recording in three dimensions the location, down to the millimeter, of each object found as layers of the site are excavated. Saraydar said he plans to develop a course on how to use the Leica instrument, which will also be used in actual fieldwork.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Excavation operation—SUNY Oswego Anthropology Professor Stephen Saraydar, center, helps students Jason Wallace, a senior education major, left, and Cole Greiner, a sophomore anthropology major, unearth artifacts at the new experimental archaeology lab in Mahar Hall on campus.

(Posted: Dec 01, 2004)