Review by Jennifer Woodman : Alumni Experience

Review by Jennifer Woodman

(IAFS Alumni on Excavation and Forensic Anthropology programs)

2016, 2019

Jennifer (Front Row, 2nd from left) with her Forensic Anthropology group (2019).

Jennifer (2nd left) on the INHP tour.

I first attended one of the IAFS field schools in the summer of 2016. I had just completed my first two semesters as an Anthropology major and was still on the fence about whether or not I wanted to concentrate on medical anthropology or archaeology. During the two weeks of the field school, I was able to get a real sense of what archaeological work is like, as well as learn basic methods of surveying and excavation. This included keeping a field journal, learning how to take back a layer in a cutting, recording stratigraphy, documenting finds, processing and labelling for post-ex, and what happens with the finds once they’re sent out from the site. Many of these skills helped me later on in my core archaeology classes. During this time, we were also taken on various field trips to learn more context about the site we were working on. Not only did we get to learn more about the history of the friaries, like the one we were excavating, but we were also able to learn more about Ireland’s modern and ancient history. While attending the field school we were placed in ‘home-stays’ where we would stay with local Irish families. This provided the additional benefit of learning more about modern Irish life and people, creating a true cultural immersion experience. After completing my field school, I made the decision to focus on archaeology.

I returned to for another IAFS field school in 2019, this time at Ferrycarrig, Wexford. The course I enrolled in was, ‘Dead Men Do Tell Tales’, which was a forensic anthropology class put on in partnership with Maynooth University. I had wanted to do another IAFS course for a while but had difficulty in having the time for it due to having a full-time job. ‘Dead Men Do Tell Tales’ offered a good opportunity due to it being only a week long, as well as being more affordable in general. As a human osteoarchaeologist, it also offered a great opportunity to get a more hands on experience with handling skeletal remains. Despite the course only being a week long, it packed a punch! During the week we spent time analyzing a collection of medieval skeletal remains and learning how to build a biological profile. We also learned how to properly excavate and record skeletal remains in a field setting. Having only worked with adult remains in my previous Human Osteology class, one of the biggest benefits of this field school was getting to analyze more juvenile remains and learn different techniques on how to determine their age range. Like my previous field school, the IAFS provided a great cultural experience, especially since we got to work alongside Irish students from Maynooth University during the week. I would highly recommend the IAFS programs to anyone looking for great hands on experience, knowledgeable instructors, and an excellent study abroad opportunity.