Archaeology class inspired Clark to research around the world

Julia Clark ’06 says she was always interested in archaeology but had no idea it could be a viable career.  A field archaeology course midway through her junior year at Cornell with State Archaeologist John Doershuk changed all that.

Julia Clark '06
Julia Clark ’06 participating in digs at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon

She’s since racked up a range of experiences from New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon to Mongolia, and she’s now in a doctoral program in anthropology, focusing on Eurasian archaeology, at the University of Pittsburgh.

What have you researched in Mongolia?

For two summers I worked on the Khanuy Valley Settlement project. While a lot of research has focused on the ritual/burial sites (called Khirigsuurs) of the Bronze Age of this region, this project seeks to locate and determine the nature of associated settlements. This is particularly tricky because habitation sites are ephemeral as the people are mobile, or at least semi-mobile, pastoralists.

I spent a third summer on a grant from the American Center for Mongolian Studies and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC). I spent time scouting possible future research areas in western Mongolia for my dissertation project, and I also worked on the American-Mongolian Deer Stone Project, a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Mongolia. This research focused on carved burial stones called “Deer Stones” and related features.

Prior to that you worked in Chaco Canyon?

After Cornell, I enrolled as a non-degree seeking graduate at the University of New Mexico in an intensive research semester at Chaco Canyon on the Chaco Canyon Stratigraphy Project. This was an amazing project involving a partial excavation of mounds associated with Pueblo Bonito, particularly focused on stratigraphy, and I was very lucky to get to work on it. I was asked last fall to participate in the project once again as an independent contractor where my duties included everything from logistics (camp organization, groceries, rental cars, etc.) to teaching students archaeological methods in the field.

Any other projects?

I have volunteered/worked on a research project at the Smithsonian concerning early neolithic animal remains from Turkey. This was an important part of my zoo-archaeological education. This year I’m also volunteering/working at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on a project concerning some of the possibly earliest domesticated horse remains from Kazakhstan. In my free time I am also working on animal bones from a historical colonial site on Martha’s Vineyard.

How would you rate your experiences at Cornell?

I really enjoyed my time at Cornell.  I love that I had the opportunity to play volleyball, take amazing classes, and meet great friends there.

Specifically to archaeology, a field school on the block program was fantastic. Perhaps, most valuable, however, were my independent studies, guided by John Doershuk and geology professor Paul Garvin. With their help I washed, sorted, cataloged, weighed, mapped etc. all artifact classes and then devised a research project investigating the distribution and composition of fire cracked rock found from the site we excavated during class in 2005.

I gave a presentation to the Iowa Academy of Sciences on my findings. That experience cemented my desire to become an archaeologist, but at that time I didn’t know where in the world, what time period, what kind of artifacts, etc. that I wanted to work on. So I traveled and tried a lot of different things.

What are your future plans/goals?

I hope to become a professor. I love, more than anything, talking about what I do. I am currently a TA here in Pittsburgh, and I love teaching archaeology to college students.


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