For the Fall 2013 semester, I interned at George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm as an Archaeology Lab Assistant. I had previously volunteered here and gladly took this opportunity to intern. While volunteering, I wondered how the archaeologists could easily identify a Native American lithic from a rock or sub-categorize a ceramic. I found that this was all in the training they had received which I then received as an intern. I was trained in identifying artifacts from prehistoric times, Washington’s time on the farm, the Civil War, and into the modern day.
Correct artifact identification is crucial to this field as it helps to provide a relative date for a specific area in the dig site. My main job for the internship was taking the artifacts that had been recovered from the field and processing them. They are first washed so we can easily identify the artifacts and then they are cataloged into our database. This is where my artifact identification training became mandatory. I organized the objects and correctly identified them putting into play what I had learned.
I came across new artifacts every day and eagerly learned more about them. It is amazing to think that the piece of ceramic I was holding could have been held by George Washington or that the minnie ball I cleaned was actually shot by a Civil War soldier. This unique experience helped me gain a new understanding of what happened in the past by being hands-on with history.
For more information on internships available to History and American Studies majors, as well as past diaries shared by other majors as they’ve held internships in the field, see this archive link.