Robyn Cutright wins award from Brennan Foundation for archaeological work
May 16, 2013 By Elizabeth Trollinger
from the Brennan Foundation to continue her archeological
research in Peru. Above, Cutright and students look at findings
from a recent dig in Danville.
Students in Cutright’s archeological methods class enjoyed the
hands-on experience of a dig. “There’s always an anticipation
and excitement about what you might find next,” says Hillary
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright recently received an award from the Curtiss T. and Mary G. Brennan Foundation in support of her archeological research in Peru.
The Curtiss T. and Mary G. Brennan Foundation was established in 1988 as a non-profit organization with the goal of providing support for archaeological field research, particularly at places of origin for early centers of culture and civilization.
Cutright has been working for several years on an archaeological site in Peru.
“In 2011, I went with two Centre students to Peru to map an archaeological site called Ventanillas and to collect some initial data from the surface,” she says. “This project allowed us to hypothesize that Ventanillas was occupied between around A.D. 1000-1200 by the Lambayeque culture, and that it was a frontier outpost in the foothills of the Andes.”
Cutright will continue her excavations in Peru this summer with two Centre students, thanks to funding from the Brennan Foundation and the College.
“We plan to excavate in two household groups to try to better understand what activities were taking place at the site and how Ventanillas related to other Lambayeque communities as well as nearby highland cultures,” Cutright says. “This project couldn’t be carried out without funding from the Brennan Foundation, and we’re very grateful for their support.”
Participating in an archaeological dig is something many people dream of, and through Cutright’s archaeology methods class, Centre students were able to make that dream a reality this semester.
“The course is designed to give students experience in asking archaeological questions, designing research projects and carrying out field research and analysis,” Cutright says. “We do a lot of hands-on activities in this class—we did a surface collection on the lawn in front of Crounse earlier in the semester—but you can’t really learn how to do archaeology without digging in the dirt!”
To get hands-on archaeological experience, Cutright and her class did a dig in April on Professor of Art Judith Jia’s farm, where they suspected an old farmstead might once have been. Students in the class—many of whom hope to pursue careers in the field of archaeology—were excited to put what they learned in the class to good use.
“To be able to partake in an actual dig was amazing but also a reality check—there is no Harrison Ford and the work is tedious,” says Rachel Stivers-Bender ’13. “Yet there is adventure in what will be discovered, and fun with getting to know the people on the dig.”
“It was amazing getting to experience a dig. I had been wanting to for years and it was just as great as I thought it would be,” says Hillary Hannabass ’14. “There’s always an anticipation and excitement about what you might find next. It’s full of surprises. It was also a lot of fun to spend more time with the people in my class and get to have this experience together. It was definitely a class bonding experience.”
The dig at Jia’s farm didn’t return the results Cutright and her class had hypothesized, but that didn’t affect the students’ enthusiasm.
“We mostly found glass, fragments of wire fence, and a few small miscellaneous metal parts. This did not make it any less fun!” Hannabass says. “Since we kept expecting to find something in the next test hole, there was always a sense of apprehension and excitement. We were also working in close proximity with llamas and cows, since the site was on a farm. That kept things interesting.”
Participating in an archaeological dig was meaningful for Cutright’s students.
“The fact that I was able to get a hands-on experience like this in my college education is really important to me,” Hannabass says. “I got a taste of what an archaeologist actually does. It helped reaffirm that this is what I want to do with my life.”
“I feel fortunate to have hands-on experience in my classes at Centre,” echoes Stivers-Bender. “It is one thing to read it in a book and to study for it on an exam, and another thing to actually apply it in the field. I am thankful that Centre gives us these opportunities.”
As one of the two students who will travel to Peru with Cutright this summer, Hannabass is already looking forward to putting her class experience at Centre to work in real life.
“I couldn't be more excited,” Hannabass says. “Centre never ceases to offer me opportunities that I would not otherwise get to have.”
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